The established auto industry has been battling to stay relevant in the face of threats from the CASE – connected, autonomous, sharing and electrification – megatrends.

These two are not social distancing...

These two are not social distancing...

While the automotive industry has been an active participant in all four strands of CASE, it was perhaps the sharing element that was most troublesome. Despite many OEMs being invested in, or indeed, having their own ride-hailing and lift-sharing operations, sharing has always been looked at warily rather than fully-embraced.

Given the business models of sharing operations it's not hard to understand why. If shared mobility becomes pervasive throughout society two threats are faced: lower demand in markets for the vehicles produced and brand loyalty of consumers shifts to the app that gives the best experience rather than to the vehicle's brand.

Under Covid-19 mobility restrictions the shared mobility operators have suffered a double whammy. Many areas of the world are in lockdown to suppress the spread of the virus. Second, given how the virus is transmitted consumers are very wary of coming into contact with surfaces that might be contaminated with the virus - such as car interiors of shared vehicles. In March, Uber reported that demand for its services was down by 70% in some cities in the US. No doubt that pattern has been repeated elsewhere for Uber and its competitors like Lyft and the BMW/Daimler venture ShareNow.

The industry has long been developing anti-bacterial and anti-microbial surfaces or looking to use UV light to disinfect surfaces to make shared mobility more hygienic for everyone. However, it could be that the measures prove to be in vain if consumers become unwilling to return to using shared mobility services after the pandemic passes. After all, in the US, Audi is still stymied in the market by the 'sudden acceleration' negative publicity of the 1980s.

For the OEMs battling to control the shocks that the pandemic has brought to their markets and operations the future impediments that shared mobility services now face perhaps brings a modicum of solace.