Despite remote and hybrid work being an option for a chunk of the working population, the amount of time driving behind the wheel hasn’t fallen by the wayside.
DesRosiers Automotive Consultants reported gasoline consumption to have passed pre-pandemic levels. And according to Nathing Shipley, executive director of industry analysis in automotive at Circana, the automotive aftermarket can thank road trips.
At AAPEX 2023, he noted that when consumers were polled in the summer about trips, 60 per cent said they were going to take one and 58 per cent said they’d do so by car.
“So the road trip concept is very strong,” he said during his Aftermarket Outlook 2024 seminar.
Shipley further noted that workers are back in the office about 50 per cent of the time. “It’s been a slow and steady increase. But nowhere near where it was,” he noted.
And miles driven in the U.S. was only off by 1.5 points from 2019 numbers as of the fall of 2023. Todd Campau, aftermarket practice leader at S&P Global Mobility, said during a different session at AAPEX that 2023 could see that number actually surpass pre-pandemic levels.
“So if people aren’t driving to offices, how is miles driven still relatively strong? It’s because of this idea of, ‘I’m driving a lot where I live. I’m not driving to an office, but I do a lot of errands during the day.’ And the road trip concept is very strong,” Shipley said.
He further noted that half of remote workers said they’ve travelled for pleasure without taking time off in the last six months.
“The ability to hop in a car and wake up somewhere the next morning and take the Zoom call with your background still on is very real,” Shipley said. “The ability to work from anywhere is a very real thing.”
That allows these workers to make every weekend a long weekend.
“So you have consumers that are hopping in the car and taking a road trip and waking up wherever they’re going into work and from there. They’re able to get some work done, but then they’re able to have a long weekend wherever it is,” Shipley said. “And prior to the pandemic, if you were in office 8-5, Monday through Friday, it was really hard to have a meaningful trip over a weekend when you had to be back in the office Monday morning at night. So there’s been a fundamental change.”