The car is becoming (more and more) a luxury product

Are the coming years likely to exclude more and more households from the possibility of owning a car? This is one of the questions posed by the 23e Cetelem automotive observatory 2023 presented on October 13. This survey, conducted across 18 countries including France (1), focused on the question of the cost of the car, whether to purchase or use. One thing stands out: never has the car been so close to being a luxury. Remember that today about 85% of French households have at least one.

Among the abundance of figures communicated, some point to the race to the rise in the price of new cars. The price per kilo of a car, an index which makes it possible to compare all types of vehicles, rose in France from €10.76 in 2001 to nearly €16 in 2020. Another comparison: when inflation increased by nearly 30% since 2001, the catalog price of vehicles has jumped by more than 60%. Today, the average age of a new vehicle buyer is over 55 years old.

604,000 new car sales

Fortunately, the second-hand market makes it possible to reduce the initial investment. When 604,000 new vehicles should be sold in 2022 to individuals, according to Cetelem’s estimates, sales will be around 5.5 million units. It should be noted that sales of new vehicles are undoubtedly the weakest for four decades, while the average for the years before the Covid reached some 2 million cars. It is mainly the difficulty of manufacturers to obtain supplies of semiconductors which explains these disappointing figures, when they have around six months of order books.

In any event, when the French are asked how much they paid for their vehicles (new or used), the average is €16,553 (more than €20,000 in Germany). And 60% of these buyers ultimately judge this price “very reasonable” Where “fairly reasonable”. On the other hand, these judgments are only made by 57% of those questioned in the event of the purchase of a new vehicle, but by 77% when it is a question of a second-hand vehicle.

€2,870 for annual usage costs

But it is the costs of use that worry consumers the most. In France, motorists estimate them at €2,870 per year and per car: €1,745 for fuel, €546 for maintenance and repairs, and €579 for insurance. And it is above all the essence that crystallizes the tensions in this budget.

However, 75% of French motorists say that it is impossible for them to do without a vehicle, even if it requires sacrifices “essential” for a large majority of them. It is therefore a question of lowering expenses at all costs, for example by giving up certain trips (for 62% of French people) in order to reduce fuel consumption.

In the end, 59% of motorists in France say they fear one day that they will no longer have the means to own a vehicle. And some specialists are wondering about the future prices of electric vehicles – currently at least 20% more expensive, up to 100% for the same model –, while sales of new thermal vehicles will be banned in Europe in 2035.

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