REVISED CAR USAGE IN A COVID-19 WORLD

ACA Research analyses the latest Community Mobility Data and what it means for aftermarket players

It is safe to say that COVID-19 has impacted the way we move, fundamentally changing ‘normal’ behaviours like going to work, and spending time in parks and public places.
The question though is how this is impacting human mobility patterns, and in particular, vehicle usage.
In mid-2020, we explored this issue using Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Data to assess the impact of COVID-19 on movement patterns. We’ve now returned to that data, to see how we compare in mid-2021.
At an overall level (Figure One), pandemic conditions continue to reduce movement. With that said, whilst time spent in many settings is well down, there is a greater level of activity than last year.
This suggests that the community is becoming more resilient and has created new movement patterns that fit within community restrictions.
Highlighting this, we see that despite people going to work, parks, shopping, and recreation, time spent at public transport hubs remains low as we become more aware of the dangers of being in crowded, indoor locations.

Figure One. Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report – Australia

The combination of increased activity and limited public transport usage does however suggest Australians are continuing to use personal vehicles on a regular basis.
As could be expected, this varies significantly by state. Lockdowns of varying lengths and severity were imposed through June and July, and this is reflected in reduced retail and workplace movement.
Interestingly, despite Victoria having comparatively less movement restrictions over this period than NSW, it registered the sharpest declines, perhaps reflecting the state’s previous lockdown experiences.
Beyond a three-day snap lockdown in Queensland, the remaining states were relatively free from movement restrictions, with residents taking advantage of this as they largely returned to their normal habits, or in the case of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, made up for lost time at retail and recreational spaces.

Figure Two. Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report – By State

Despite Victoria being the most significantly impacted, New South Wales is the state that spent the most time through this period locked down.
We can see the impact of this by considering the time spent at parks and public spaces in NSW in response to the 2020 lockdown, compared to the current one.
The first lockdown (beginning 23 March 2020), saw a dramatic reduction in use of these spaces, with this remaining consistently low through the first month of lockdown.

Figure Three. Source: Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report – NSW

In contrast, we can see that the 2021 Greater Sydney lockdown has not reduced park and public space usage as drastically – with some days actually seeing increased time spent in these locations.
This demonstrates that Sydneysiders are looking for ways to maintain their activity levels and obtain some sort of normalcy during lockdown, and again talks to a level of vehicle usage as they move around within their local areas.
Ultimately, despite a level of activity, lockdowns mean that mobility will remain limited in the short to medium term.
Once large sections of the country move back out of lockdown, we will again see a return to a greater level of activity, but this will most likely start with intrastate travel.
This suggests a continuing level of higher demand for workshop services, as consumers prep for road trips, and pick up any servicing or maintenance needs they might have put off during lockdown.

This column was prepared for AAA Magazine by ACA Research, the AAAA’s partners in the AAAA Aftermarket Dashboard which is delivered to AAAA members each quarter.

For more information, visit www.acaresearch.com.au or contact Ben Selwyn on bselwyn@acaresearch.com.au