Last weekend many Colombians were surprised to find Chevrolet dealerships closed. Through advertising in the media and notices in the windows, the brand invited «not to buy a car today.»
It is no secret to anyone that the sale of new cars in Colombia is in the doldrums: a drop of 26.6 percent in the first semester in relation to the same period last year certifies it. Reaching more customers is a challenge for sellers and this clearly explains the brand’s new strategy with its ‘Chevrolet listens to you’ plan.
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This way, Chevrolet attacks one of the obstacles that people are ‘scared’ of the windows: high interest rates, access to credit, the price of the new car and the high monthly payments.
Although many still think that having a car in Colombia is for the rich, the reality is quite different. In 2014, a study carried out by the Raddar Consumer Knowledge Group, a firm specialized in consumption analysis, indicated that 78.8 percent of vehicle owners were concentrated in strata 2, 3 and 4 of the Colombian population.
By that date, these data coincided with those of the Dane Quality of Life Survey, which, unlike Raddar, does not measure people but households. In stratum 2 households were 23.5 percent of the vehicle fleet; in stratum 3, 30.45 percent; and in 4, 21.01 percent.
Today, almost ten years later, that trend is not only maintained but is increasing. According to Camilo Herrera, founder of Raddar, today more than 90 percent of the cars are owned by people who live in strata 1, 2 and 3.
This, he says, «is consistent with the structure of our population and knowing that only 14.2 percent of households in Colombia have a car, means that the car is far from being a luxury product…».
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It means that the car is far from being a luxury product.
Raddar is based on the Dane 2021 Quality of Life Survey, which uses the classification by strata of the energy service that yields a universe of more than 17 million homes in Colombia.
According to these data, from the middle stratum downwards are the households that concentrate the ownership of cars. In total in Colombia, 14.25 percent of households have a vehicle.
Other interesting data that the figures have is that 35.82 percent of the cars are owned by women, and 64.18 percent belong to men. 18 percent are owned by people between the ages of 18 and 30; 29 percent of the cars are owned by those between the ages of 31 and 40; those between 41 and 50 years old own 23 percent; from 51 to 60 years, 17 percent; from 61 to 75 years, 11 percent; and over 75 years only one percent.
Curiously, despite the restrictions on the use of private cars, their costs in taxes, tolls and maintenance, and the increase in gasoline prices and traffic jams, this is a mobility solution for many families, over and above poor public transportation, a preference that grew with the pandemic.
The data from the Dane Quality of Life Survey last year indicate that there were changes in the way Colombians travel to their places of study or work. People prefer to walk, use the bicycle, motorcycle or private car to public transport, which lost 4.5 percent of users between 2020 and 2022.
Another study by Fenalco Cundinamarca showed that, on average, Colombians change cars every four years. If the vehicle was new, it tends to be changed every 6 years, and if it was bought used, every 3 years. In addition, sales of hybrid and electric vehicles have reached.
Of course, on this last point – and it is a widespread phenomenon in many countries – despite the messages from governments about the need to address and confront climate change, the migration to ‘green’ vehicles is mainly based on the perception of the consumer that it will significantly reduce their operating expenses, but the car’s base price is far from making it popular.
Other data from the study reports that, according to the vehicle transition indicator, more than 50 percent of people bought one of the same class as the one they sold. And of the entry-level vehicle sales transactions, 65 percent moved up the range on the purchased vehicle.
Other results reflect the economic situation of many families. Of the transactions where new vehicles are sold, 40 percent change it by delivering a used one.
Colombians prefer white and gray vehicles and trucks and people between the ages of 18 and 30 are the ones who buy new cars the most (40.5 percent); followed by people between 31 and 40 years old (26.4 percent).
Of course, The concern of many is mobility in cities and that is why proposals such as the recent one from the Minister of Transportation to authorize the circulation of private cars at peak hours arise.
But the results of these studies and surveys should help them accept that this is an inescapable reality that must be faced because families cannot be prevented from improving their quality of life and, in many cases, their basic work and mobility system.
Without neglecting that the measures and restrictions announced or ‘under study’ primarily modified those classes and people who are the great mass of the people in their mobility, and who, due to their resources, were unable to have the alternative of a second car.
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Trying to get people out of their cars or limiting their aspirations has no place in countries with emerging economies like ours, where the public transport offer does not meet their needs.
This is part of a long cultural process that has already been experienced by cities in developed countries where cars, bicycles and mass transit coexist. However, these are other standards that are not met here, but that cannot be lost sight of.