Will Just Any Old Car Do? Will No Car at All Do?

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Back-to-back stories in the NY Times point out two interesting trends in the automobile market. First, brand loyalty is long gone. Second, for many consumers, the car itself is gone as well.

The Times, discussing the car market a couple of decades ago:

Nearly four in five Americans were repeat buyers back then, staunchly faithful to brands that they knew, trusted and were part of their self-image. The allegiance often continued through generations of families, like party affiliations in politics.

Now, partly as a result of increasingly fickle consumer tastes and the industry turmoil in Detroit, that hard-won loyalty is largely gone.

So far this year, only about 20 percent of car shoppers stayed with the same brand when they purchased a new vehicle, according to a study by the Oregon-based firm CNW Marketing Research.

So the knee-jerk Ford or GM (or even Toyota or Honda) buyer is rapidly disappearing. Price, value, and the ever-elusive cool factor seem to be more important than the relative trustworthiness of any brand.

The coolest of all moves, however, may be foregoing a car entirely. The trends toward money-saving and environmentalism—which are teaming up to rid the world of plastic shopping bags and bottled water—have caused many car owners to rethink their driver-everywhere mentality and get rid of their automobiles entirely. Without their own wheels, they’re taking public transportation, riding bikes, walking, and using car-sharing services, per the Times.