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Car-sharing sees spike in usage but experts say demand will taper off

SINGAPORE — Car-sharing companies here are seeing a spike in revenue and usership, continuing a trend that started since the end of the circuit breaker in June last year, but some transport experts cautioned that the growth might not be sustained as they expect demand to taper off.

BlueSG said with more people working from home, it is “only normal that private car owners will reconsider the necessity of owning a car, especially if more than half the time it stays in the car park”.

BlueSG said with more people working from home, it is “only normal that private car owners will reconsider the necessity of owning a car, especially if more than half the time it stays in the car park”.

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  • Firms said the pandemic has led to more people using their services to run errands while working from home
  • One firm had about 7,000 active users back in June last year; it now has approximately 30,000
  • Some people believe car-sharing is safer than using public transport as there is minimal contact with others
  • Experts expect car-sharing demand to taper off as people revert to pre-Covid routines

 

SINGAPORE — Car-sharing companies here are seeing a spike in revenue and usership, continuing a trend that started since the end of the circuit breaker in June last year, but some transport experts cautioned that the growth might not be sustained as they expect demand to taper off.

Car-sharing firms, even new entrants like Shariot and Get Go, said that Covid-19 has led to more people using their services to run errands while working from home, and to drive to leisure attractions due to the closure of borders.

One firm, Drive lah, has seen up to a fourfold increase in both usership and revenue. It now has approximately 30,000 active users, up from about 7,000 back in June last year, its co-founder Dirk-Jan ter Horst said.

Tribecar said that its March revenue was up by about 300 per cent from April 2020 when the circuit breaker started. Its user growth has likewise almost tripled since June last year, when Singapore started exiting the circuit breaker in phases.

BlueSG, Car Club, WhizzCar and Car Lite also reported spikes in demand.

New entrant Shariot has accrued more than 14,000 active users since its launch in October last year, while GetGo, which began operations in February this year, now has 20,000 users.

REASONS FOR GROWTH

The firms attributed the wave of demand to changes in consumer behaviour due Covid-19 restrictions.

BlueSG said with more people working from home, it is “only normal that private car owners will reconsider the necessity of owning a car, especially if more than half the time it stays in the car park”.

The firm anticipates that more car owners will give up their vehicles and switch to public transport and car-sharing.

Travel restrictions also mean that more residents here are looking for transport to local attractions instead.

A Tribecar spokesperson said that with the introduction of government initiatives such as the SingapoRediscover vouchers, the firm has seen more hirers using its service to take trips to local attractions in their free time.

Mr ter Horst from Drive lah added that his firm has grown its fleet of vehicles and they are available at more locations, thus making it more convenient for people to use its service.

Mr Tomoya Ryuse, managing director at Car Club, said that car-sharing is a platform that is safe due to the lack of human-to-human interactions.

“The general public just want a more private and safer way to travel,” he said. “And car-sharing in general fulfils this gap.”

Agreeing, a spokesman from Shariot said that the pandemic has been a “silver lining” for the firm.

“Rather than carpooling with others, commuters are looking for an alternative where they get to have a car to themselves, (thus) minimising contact with others,” the spokesman said.

Tribecar user Thomas Lim, 30, said that he opted for car-sharing during the circuit breaker period due to his work.

“I work as a warehouse executive, and I need to travel to work but I don’t feel safe on public transport,” he said.

He also rents cars for family outings.

BlueSG user Khairul Zakaria, 24, had been working in a clinical attachment when the circuit breaker started.

He began using the service to commute from his house in Woodlands to Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Novena, as he did not want to interact with others during his commute given the nature of his role.

The Institute of Technical Education student, who is pursuing a Nitec in nursing, said that he could also sneak in 30 minutes more rest than if he had taken public transport.

SUSTAINING MOMENTUM A CHALLENGE: EXPERTS

Some transport experts whom TODAY spoke to are sceptical about the sustainability of the growth of car-sharing as the economy recovers from the pandemic and people revert to their pre-Covid routines.

Transport specialist Terence Fan from the Singapore Management University said: “When Singaporeans feel comfortable venturing abroad for holidays, I would expect a further slight decline in the demand for shared vehicles.”

Transport economist Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said that car-sharing has always been a “difficult business model” in Singapore as public and private transport alternatives are competitive.

He added that the economic model of car-sharing is based on sharing the expensive capital cost of a vehicle across many drivers, and having the drivers provide their own labour.

“Thus, car-sharing works well in countries where car capital costs are low, and driver costs are high,” he said.

However, Singapore has an excellent public transport system and relatively cheap private hired transport, which makes the industry relatively uncompetitive, he added.

Transport consultant and retired Land Transport Authority planner Gopinath Menon, however, said that as long as the car population is being kept at zero annual growth and Certificate of Entitlement prices do not dip, people will still find car-sharing more attractive than owning a vehicle.

“Unless the car population increases considerably, which is unlikely, car-sharing will always be in demand,” he said.

Related topics

car-sharing circuit breaker transport Covid-19

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