Skip advert
Advertisement

“The time is right for a wider choice of affordable personal mobility”

Mike Rutherford thinks the motor industry needs to focus on smaller, no-frills vehicles

What’s the best way for the motor industry to thrive in the brave new post-pandemic world that can’t come a day too soon? It has to think less about volume production of expensive cars, more on the design and build of smaller, skinnier no-frills vehicles.

Our wants, needs and priorities are changing. The time is right for a wider choice of modest, affordable, easily storable personal mobility devices (PMDs) – for the streets where real people, young and old, fit and not so fit, actually live, shop, work or go to school.

It’s a given that travel behaviour in future will be very different and much reduced – not least because millions of people proved in recent weeks that some journeys deemed ‘essential’ weren’t that crucial after all. Many or most of these non-essential trips by car and public transport may never happen again. Understandably. If journeys aren’t necessary, why waste time, energy and money taking them?  

Advertisement - Article continues below

For these and other reasons (accident reduction, improving air quality, reducing the risk of virus spread etc) the future for millions of car, train, bus, taxi and plane users will surely consist of lower-mileage home, leisure, study or work lives.

During lockdown, state-of-the-art tech has facilitated everything from virtual business, social and Government meetings, to online classes, concerts, ‘visits’ to friends, families, GPs and more. All this will increase. And when it does, individuals and businesses – the largest purchasers of brand-new cars – won’t need to buy as many of them. Hence my assertion that auto manufacturers have to think harder about small alternative vehicles for one or two people, not just medium-large cars for five or seven.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The likes of Peugeot, BMW and Honda have proved how talented they are at producing pedal cycles, two and three-wheeled machines, quads, plus other mobility devices. Renault’s done its bit, too, with its quirky Twizy, and Citroen’s £6k-ish Ami is another positive step. But rivals need to get inventive, too – with new, affordable vehicles of their own. Oh, and merely churning out old-tech bicycles and scooters won’t be good enough.

Qooder is an excellent example of how to do it. The company is run by former senior car guys from Abarth, and one of its products is officially described as the only vehicle in the world with four tilting wheels. While I’m still not sure if you drive or ride it, I know it’s among the most exciting ‘alternatives to the car’ I’ve seen in years.

At the other end of the tech scale, just as tuk-tuks, cyclos (three-person bikes) and similarly simple transport work brilliantly as cheap alternatives to taxis overseas, they should do the same in British towns and cities (not just in the touristy parts of London). So why aren’t mainstream vehicle manufacturers in the UK building them – plus equally wacky-but-effective small vehicles – in pedal-only, part-electric or pure-electric guises?

Alternative fuels and power packs of all sizes and prices are already here. But we’re still largely lacking in imaginative, unique breakthrough vehicles that do the same. That’s a shame. We urgently need them for the brave new, lower-mileage world that awaits us.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...

Skip advert
Advertisement
Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Driving test bookings: huge waiting lists play into the hands of fraudsters
News

Driving test bookings: huge waiting lists play into the hands of fraudsters

Crooks and chancers are making a packet out of the failing UK driving test system, and its learner drivers who are paying the price
7 Sep 2023

Most Popular

Car Deal of the Day: £14,000 off a factory fresh, top-of-the-range Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf
News

Car Deal of the Day: £14,000 off a factory fresh, top-of-the-range Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s electric family hatchback with a huge discount is our Deal of the Day for 20 June
20 Jun 2024
Dacia, Kia and MG have gone from no-hopers to celebrated winners
Opinion - Dacia Duster
Opinion

Dacia, Kia and MG have gone from no-hopers to celebrated winners

Mike Rutherford thinks Dacia, Kia and MG were once considered underdogs, but the 2024 Driver Power results show just how far all three manufacturers h…
23 Jun 2024
New Bugatti Tourbillon revealed: 1,774bhp, £3.8m, V16 hypercar aims to blow rivals away
Bugatti Tourbillon - front action
News

New Bugatti Tourbillon revealed: 1,774bhp, £3.8m, V16 hypercar aims to blow rivals away

1,774bhp, a new naturally aspirated V16 engine and an otherworldly design mark out Bugatti’s next new generation hypercar
20 Jun 2024