Prior Convictions: Life begins at V40

Right, then. Firstly, what I can't believe is that this new initiative has been launched without a single 'Volvo Amazon' reference. I mean, honestly. It involves Volvo, and Amazon, and yet not the merest hint of a pun. Why do we bother?

Anyway, it works like this, this new initiative. If you've got an Amazon Prime Now account, you can sign up through it to get a test drive of a Volvo V40. (That's the small hatch, the oldest car in the range, so perhaps they're having to work harder to flog it these days.)

Sign up, then, and if you live in the right place and you're home at the right time, somebody - an expert, no less - will come round your house in a V40, and accompany you on a 45-minute test drive. These 'Prime Now Test Drives' are available in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh during June and July.

And what happens if you like the car enough to want to buy it? Well, slightly disappointingly, they just direct you to a Volvo dealer. But I do like the idea of this. I like cars and know a bit about them and I'm a nearly middle-aged bloke but even I don't much like traditional car retail, and the idea of somebody sizing you up to see whether you're a likely buyer. Genuinely I think it's much nicer this way, with it happening on your own patch, in a relaxed environment and on roads you know, when you've got the expert's 100 per cent attention.

When you can have most things you want straight away, delivered to you, car retail is inevitably going to have to work harder than it has done in previous years. So it also feels like another step towards what the industry is gently calling 'mobility'. I know, it's only a test drive to your house, but these tie-ins, this melding of automobile and online connectivity and convenience will only beget more tie-ins. In the US, Amazon can already drop a package into your car while it's parked - though how frequently you'd need that, I'm still not sure - and in some place you can already car-share your Volvo.

The car-sharing bit is interesting. The industry thinks this will be a proper goer in future, with some caveats. The smart ones have realised that you can't really make money out of letting somebody share into a car for a few hours, so unless it's just a friend or family and profit isn't your game, then forget it. A car has to be clean, it has to be inspected somehow, and it has to end up in the right place, and the costs of doing all that so that somebody can just, say, drive to dinner, means it's so expensive they might as well take a cab. A car isn't a Boris bike; it'd have to be shared for a couple of days at least to make it worth everybody's while.

But still they think it's coming. At least, they have to prepare for the fact that it might. Because if drivers are sharing cars more rather than owning them, they'll end up selling fewer cars. And what defines, I suppose, a mobility company from a pure car manufacturer, is that the money comes from ensuring and enabling a car to be driven lots, because when it's driven it's making somebody money, rather than just profiting from sales and manufacturing.

Which, I think, leads to the fundamental question: is a car something you're prepared to share with somebody else? A test drive at my house I'm quite happy to get on board with. Routinely sharing it with somebody else I'm yet to be convinced about.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (9) Join the discussion on the forum

  • NJ72 25 May 2018

    To answer the question on whether I'd be OK sharing a car with someone, then I think it depends on the car and the intent.

    Obviously most PHers have cars that'll fall in to 2 categories - Daily driver or pride and joy (or a mix of the two).

    Personally I'd almost be on board with sharing a daily drive, but I wouldn't share my pride and joy with someone...

    I also, the more I think about it, wouldn't be happy sharing my daily driver. Not because I'm possessive or anything, but traditionally I'm a slob in my daily. I make a mess of it and clear it up every couple of weeks, which if I'm sharing I wouldn't be able to do... Likewise, my daily is a hoofing A6 estate which frequently gets used as a storage location...

    So, TL;DR: No, I don't think I would be OK sharing a car with someone other than a friend or family member.

  • phil4 25 May 2018

    I think it'll take one of the cultural shifts. In the same way that home-owning is something the UK seem to aspire to, where other countries are happy to just rent, the same sort of issue will arise with Car share.

    In the scheme of things we've only recently started down the mentality of renting cars (PCP, Lease etc), rather than buying them. But around us services are moving towards the rental model, Spotify is the oft used example of that.

    The fact Spotify is popular, and so is PCP/Lease, suggests that we may already be moving that way.

    Perhaps then it won't be short term rentals, it'll just be an evolution of PCP/Spotify... you get to keep it while you make payments. For many people out this way the car is used daily, so why would you want to swap it every few days?

  • Turbobanana 25 May 2018

    NJ72 said:
    No, I don't think I would be OK sharing a car with someone other than a friend or family member.
    Enjoy while you can. I reckon it’s a short step to multi-occupancy cars only in towns soon. Our works car park, that offers “car share” parking discounts, already has car park mafia on patrol - woe betied anyone driving solo!

    Also, if sharing your ride meant your car was better cared-for, would that be a bad thing?

  • 99dndd 25 May 2018

    It's interesting but what's stopping you ringing a local dealer and booking a test drive anyway?

    Those 24 hour ones are handy when your car's going in for warranty work.

  • Crusoe 26 May 2018

    When the daily is electric and drives itself you aren't going to need to buy it. You just ask it to pick you up and the next free vehicle from the brands you are signed up to will take you where you want to go. Once dropped off it goes looking for a charging point or the next passenger. If you can't drive it you aren't going to be attached to it as long as it is comfortable, safe and low cost it will fulfill the transport requirement. Pay premium for single use or reduced cost if you don't mind sharing.

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