As Malaysians, we’re living in a time when there are an incredibly wide range of options for mobility. You can buy a car outright with cash, or you can take your regular hire-purchase loan of varying duration that is the more common option across various market segments. For those who look to change their cars every few years, leasing is also an option on the table albeit less popular. If you don’t feel like bearing the burden of owning a car, ride sharing is also an option with services like Grab.
While these were the options for the majority of the last decade, lately a couple of new options have popped up that have seen various degrees of success in other countries. It’s known as car sharing, and you can get them in short term or long term flavours. This differs from more traditional forms of car ownership in the sense that you don’t own an actual car, but you do get to control where you take the car and how long you use it.
But with these new options comes the issue of responsibility. When you own a car – at least in this context having the car in your name – you have to at the very least make sure that the car is habitable because you’re going to have to use it almost every day. Even if you don’t keep the car absolutely spotless, it has to be at least in a decent enough condition to drive.
When we look to shared mobility services in the past, it doesn’t look so great. O Bike was a great example before they folded – their bikes were trashed, strewn about, dumped in the strangest of places and ultimately damaged. Even if they were so plentiful that nobody had an issue finding one nearby, it does speak to the attitude of the average Malaysian consumer.
This lack of care can translate to car sharing platforms as well, as users don’t necessarily feel obliged to take care of these cars. The most direct equivalent to O Bike would be services like GoCar or SOCAR, which allow users to rent cars hourly or daily. For now the hefty financial penalties and the relatively small pool of users means that the cars don’t suffer as much – but this can change very quickly if the number of users ramps up rapidly. Sooner or later any fleet of cars is going to suffer from strenuous use and you will see them degrading in various ways.
While you may not find cars returning damaged, they may very well be abandoned in random spots or returned with almost no fuel in the tank, which can be incredibly frustrating for the next user. Regardless of how well a service cleans their cars or how frequent, if the next user is queued nearly immediately, there is hardly any time to prepare a car and make sure it is in good shape.
The longer term solution that FLUX offers is a decent half measure that lets you change the vehicle you have every month if you need to, just topping up the difference in lease rates. This gives you the flexibility of a car sharing program but the longevity of use that gives you a sense of ownership and the need to take care of the car.
Regardless of whether you’re paying for a car sharing program by the hour or by the month, the benefits are still present – no headaches when it comes to getting the car regularly serviced, and no worries about forking out for insurance and roadtax. You may have to do a little bit of foot travel for hourly car sharing programs, but longer term options even have the availability of low level concierge.
But the question remains as to whether we can be responsible enough car users to get the best out of a car sharing program. Insurance companies are willing to underwrite the policies that allow such programs to happen, but it will all come down to whether the incident rates can stay low. Why this is important is because in the future, there’s a high chance that car ownership as we know it will be replaced by a pay as you need it system – especially with autonomous cars. When that time comes, one hopes that consumers are ready for the necessary change in mindset.