Car Design Will Become Less ‘Jack-Of-All-Trades’

Today’s successful cars are jack-of-all-trades, designed for a single ‘target user’ to own for a few years and use for many different purposes. In the future, this will be different. The growth of car-sharing will mean more cars will be used for specific usages by many users. Tomorrow’s successful car designs will be less generalist and more focused on doing fewer things really well. 

Shared cars are already chosen for a particular usage instead of how well they fit a user’s needs and sensibilities. This often comes down to the prosaic suitability of how close the car is to where the user wants to use the car (and not being too expensive), because, beyond the most basic measures of cabin and trunk capacity, there is little to distinguish one car over another for most uses.

Today’s shared cars are all designed primarily for one person to undertake many different usages, not specifically-tailored for shared use. But as more cars are used for car-sharing, there will be both more choice of cars available to users in close proximity and a related greater opportunity for cars to be designed to excel at specific types of usage. 

To win the custom of car share users, a car’s design will have to really excel at a specific usage and neither need to be able to do other tasks nor need to compromise the usage they excel at by being designed to do other things too. A car that can do many things will both be less able to undertake one type of use and more expensive than it needs to be for one specific use case.

The number of shared cars today is increasing at a rate of 50% – 100% per year in most markets. The proportion of cars that are used exclusively as shared cars may remain less than those that are used by a ‘target user’ for a few years yet, but car share cars are set to become a significant proportion of the total car park for the generation of cars under development right now. These cars are still being designed as generalist designs that do most things well for a single type of user, not as more specialist designs that do some things brilliantly for many car-share users. 

Eventually, when autonomous cars mature, the shared-car will become the most common type of car, used by thousands of different users for a particular type of usage in almost every instance. Designing a car to excel at a single type of use, not as a jack-of-all-trades design for a single ‘target’ user, is more of a matter of when, not if. 


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