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No 4 wheel drive in my Brunswick or Glebe back yard

By Roger Kalla - posted Monday, 10 December 2012


Sales of new cars in Europe are going down. Some of the down turn can certainly be attributed to the austere economic times that the latin speaking countries of Southern Europe are facing.

However marketing research performed by the car manufacturers is pointing to a new and potentially disruptive trend – young urban professionals in Europe and globally are increasingly looking to social networks for solutions to their mobility needs.

These days you can find apps that gives you access to car pools in all major European cities. A sizeable proportions of innercity cars are shared by up to 15 people in the big cities of Europe.

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In Australia sales of cars have stagnated and the local car industry is propped up by large subsidised Government fleets of home brand cars. Sales of European cars, targetting the aspirational classes, are holding up mainly because of the lingering prestige of owning a European brand car.

However, there is a steady downwards creep here in Australia in the premium that used to be charged for the pleasure of owning a European brand. Nowadays you can drive away a European car that has not got leather upholstery, German 7 speaker sound system and the latest gadgets.

Rather the cars that have always been sold in Europe as middle of the road transport are slowly entering the Australian market. Often the European car manufacturers sell a paired down model for their Australian market, without the bells and whistles, for considerably less than you pay for the top of the range model.

The frugal small compact European car with the badge but without the matching price tag is making its way onto the congested roads in our Australian cities.

In the big cities downunder your young professional inner-city living person, the demographic that car sales people traditionally enticed with a new prestige brand, are increasingly turning away from the idea of owning their own personal four wheel freedom machine and are moving around using public transport if they must or using more fun ways of transport if they can.

As a matter of fact it is among these people we find that two wheeled transport is gaining traction. The cool 20 somethings that are seen on his or her fixie two wheeler trundling down Swanston Street to the bars in the CBD are in the vanguard of the new transport models for our cities.

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Bicycle sales overtook cars sales in Australia some time ago. But the thing is that you can justify and buy a bicycle for every activity that involves you getting from A to B. And you pay a fraction of the amount for a real two wheel freedom machine than you pay for a prestige car.

I am talking about mountain bikes for the off road, hybrid flat handle bar bikes for the commuter, cyclo cross bikes for the person that wants to go everywhere and of course the road racer for the week end trip down the Mornington peninsula.

You can buy all of these four or more types of bikes for an fraction of the amount of dough you cough up for a brand new European prestige brand. As a matter of fact most European car makers have hoisted the white flag and are now manufacturing and selling bicycles to complement their four wheel offerings.

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About the Author

Dr Roger Kalla is the Director of his own Company, Korn Technologies, and a stakeholder in Australia’s agricultural biotechnology future. He is also a keen part time nordic skier and an avid reader of science fiction novels since his mispent youth in Arctic Sweden. Roger is a proud member of the Full Montes bike riding club of Ivanhoe East.

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