Timeshare is making a comeback. And I’m not talking about three weeks every year in a self-catering apartment “just outside Umhlanga”, but cars. People are starting to share cars in the same way they would, say, a hotel room or holiday apartment.
Indeed, there are schemes like BMW’s DriveNow programme in some German cities as well as Vienna, London and San Francisco, VW’s Quicar in Hanover and Nissan’s Choimobi system in Yokohama that are using a pay-per-use approach to car transportation. The BMW system, for example, employs an app on your smartphone to locate a DriveNow i3 near you. You can then use your app-based ID to get in, drive to your destination and then leave the vehicle there for the next person to use. It’s a one-way car-sharing service.
Unlike normal ownership, you pay for the car only while using it. And that makes both financial and, with fewer cars on the road, ecological sense.
So is this the future of motoring? I hope not. While it does show how digital technology can make initiatives like this possible – and it certainly does point to another application for the automobile – I seriously doubt this will replace the car parked in your garage.
Most people – and especially South Africans – have a strong attachment to their cars. And it’s not merely because, after our homes, they are our next biggest financial commitment, but because we have an emotional connection with this machine of steel, chrome and rubber. Cars are status symbols and the physical embodiment of an essential freedom – the freedom of movement. My car allows me the possibility of going in whichever direction I choose. I may not, but I could if I wanted to. Like a cowboy and his horse. It’s a very liberating thought.
It’s why we still want to own our very own city runabouts like that VW Up! (tested on page 54), or tyre-smoking chargers such as the Mercedes-AMG C63 we drove in
Portugal (page 30). It’s why we celebrate milestone performance cars like the Ferrari F50 and 458 Speciale owned by two South Africans (page 48).
When it comes to my house, mi casa es su casa, but when it comes to my car, mi car es definitely not su car.