Mobility – Where’s it all heading?


Anyone in the online automotive classifieds space would love a crystal ball to tell them where car sales, car usage and mobility will actually end up – and I am one of them. Everyone has an opinion, some informed others not so informed.

In terms of online automotive classifieds though, I am sure of one thing – they are not and cannot go away in a hurry. There are just too many cars and basic needs of us all that will keep driving the buying and selling of cars in the near future (read 5, 10, 15 years).

But as we all know there are trends developing, I am not naive enough not to see them. One such trend that hit me in my last few visits to Mexico and Brazil is the take up of mobility services such as Lime and Grow Mobility in Latam. Grow Mobility is the rebranded name for recently merged Grin (electric scooters) and Brazil based startup Yellow (bikes) – “As part of the merger, Grin and Yellow are rebranding as Grow Mobility. Initially, however, both apps will maintain their apps and brands. Grow Mobility operates more than 135,000 micromobility vehicles across six countries and plans to more than double its fleet in the next few months across Latin America” (https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/30/electric-scooter-startup-grin-merges-with-brazil-based-yellow/).

Now my sample set is small but I do feel it is real and indicative for certain markets. I was in Mexico City earlier in the year and the usage of electric scooters and bikes just astounded me, albeit in the more up market Palanco area especially and indeed downtown. The head of our business (Australian) in Mexico used a scooter or bike each time we met for dinner or at the office. It is too convenient and cheap not to.

What are his alternatives? In lieu of owning a car, he would have normally walked or taken an Uber but these options were no where near the ease and convenience of an electric scooter or bike.

I then traveled to São Paulo, Brazil and whilst it was a quick visit with not much time to really take it in, I did not notice any such trends. The time I was there before that just 4 months earlier and had not noticed anything either.

However fast forward just 2 months and as I sit in a bar in Vila Olimpia, São Paulo on a Sunday afternoon, electric scooters are consistently going past and I mean well over 100 over a few hours.

Further, as I walk along Rua Olimpiadis and even Faria Lima, I see scooters and bikes outside every third or fourth building. The trend is taking hold, at least in these areas. This was not apparent 6 months ago or even 2 months ago. Even in Santiago, Chile in November, electric bikes in particular (with a few scooters) were very noticeable.

Let’s put a caveat on these observations though – they seems to work pretty well in the “well to do” precincts of Polanco in Mexico City and Vila Olimpia in São Paulo and these cities in particular are renowned for their heavy traffic so it makes sense for these mobility options to take hold. And are these really going to replace cars, no they will not.

The adoption in Melbourne did not go so smooth for oBike where bikes were trashed and dumped in the Yarra River forcing them to retreat. For me this says more about us Aussies (and yes us in Melbourne whilst Sydney did have similar problems) as being disrespectful, often cashed-up, bogans (yes again, I am generalizing but it is true) and not about the value of the service.

Australian cities are different to say Mexico City, São Paulo and a lot of the big cities around the world. Our geographical and suburban suburb spread is what makes it different where having a car is not an option for a lot of people at this time.

One big problem with this form of mobility though is the weather. On my final day in Sao Paulo the heavens opened with heavy rain which saw the electric scooters and bikes become obsolete, you just wouldn’t go there.

Anyway, the whole mobility debate will continue to foster until we actually know what means will come out on top and hindsight can once again be the winner.

In the meantime we can all make a bet or three and hope we are on the winner. One winner though is that online Auto classifieds aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Yes the habits and nuances may change but don’t they always?


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