June 24, 2020

U.S. Reopening Sparks Consumers’ Renewed Love Affair with Their Cars

Americans Fall in Love with Cars Again as Economy Reopens

People love their cars or so the saying goes. The “love affair” theme was coined and promoted by Groucho Marx during a TV program called “Merrily We Roll Along” in the 1960s. It’s been a hotly debated topic ever since: Is the love affair merely a product of good marketing? Even if it was an arranged marriage, the relationship blossomed into one where, regardless of income level, transportation costs per household run an average of 17%. More income generally translates to a more expensive car, but the percentage of household spend on transportation doesn’t really vary all that much.

The pandemic and government shutdown threw a wrench in the gears so to speak. The stay-at-home orders threatened to break up the love affair as it were, since people were told in many states to shelter in place. At Urgently, we have been watching the traffic and data by state and forecasting the year. From what we’ve seen so far, not only is the love affair here to stay, it looks like it’s accelerating.

This means more people driving more miles. As the number of miles driven increases, of course so does the demand for mobility and roadside assistance. We fully expect to grow our business 100% year-over-year for the next several years at a minimum.

Here’s what the data is telling us:

  • At the bottom, traffic fell 41% from historic averages.
  • Traffic returned to pre-COVID volumes the week of Jun 7, one week earlier than our previous model predicted.
  • By mid-July, expect traffic to increase, reaching as much as 130% of historic volumes.

We followed up our internal modeling with a consumer survey* to verify our hypothesis. People’s answers align with our expectations that automobile traffic will increase. Some key findings:

  • 27.1% of U.S. drivers surveyed said they expect to increase use of their own car and 11.7% plan to increase use of their own micromobility device (e.g., bicycle, scooter) as stay-at-home orders lift and the economy reopens.
  • 22.8% plan to decrease use of public transportation and 20.0% plan to decrease services as they emerge from stay-at-home orders. 
  • 33.5% plan to travel for summer vacation or holiday weekends.
  • Among those planning leisure travel this summer, 60.8% will take their own car; 21.6% will fly; 9.6% will rent a car; 4.0% will choose a ride hailing service; and 1.1% will travel by rail. 
  • 35.4% of respondents plan to travel at least 500 miles and 21.1% plan to travel at least 1,000 miles.  

The Love Affair Continues

Throughout the dynamic market conditions of 2020, and as states initiated stay-at-home orders, our customer feedback ratings, technology usage and ETA/ATAs continued to excel. Partners see these statistics in real time for every roadside event. As a result, many partners began sending us additional dispatches and asking that we provide failover services to ensure even better experiences for their customers during this stressful time.

Everything we are seeing leads us to believe there will be a substantial increase in vehicular travel and company growth. That means more things moving and more things breaking. Urgently is positioned to be there to help, allowing Americans to continue their love affair with their automobiles.

* Urgently’s “Summer 2020 Transportation & Travel Intentions Survey” of 531 US consumers was conducted online May 22-23, 2020.