January 26, 2022

With prices soaring for ten years, the automobile is once again a luxury product

Crisis, which crisis ? The automotive market may have recorded its sixth consecutive month of decline in November, sales of very high-end cars are doing like a charm. Registrations of these models have, according to AAAData, increased by 77% since the beginning of the year against 2.5% for the whole sector. This contrast is only the emerging part of a larger and older phenomenon: that of the gentrification of the automobile.

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In recent years, the purchase price of new cars has increased to such an extent that many households no longer have access to them. To believe that it would be necessary to reinvent the 4CV or the 2CV of the middle of the last century. Now, in France, you have to spend on average some 26,000 euros for a brand new vehicle (35% more than ten years ago, according to Argus), and the median age of the buyer is at the threshold of sixty. Caught between the continued inflation of prices – accentuated since the start of the semiconductor crisis – and consumers whose incomes do not follow, the distribution networks no longer hide their concern. “We have reached the limit of social acceptability of the price of a new vehicle”, insists Marc Bruschet, president of the dealers branch of the National Automotive Professions Council (CNPA). A study commissioned by this organization shows that between 2011 and 2019 prices increased by just over 16%. That is to say twice as fast as the purchasing power of households.

Everything converges to draw a growing automobile fracture. The rate of households having acquired a new car during the year fell to 2.3% against 7% in the mid-1990s

Everything converges to draw a growing automobile fracture. The rate of households having acquired a new car during the year fell to 2.3% against 7% in the mid-1990s. The proportion of individuals in registrations does not reach more than 45% of sales, against 50% five years ago and 72% twenty-five years ago. As a result of the boom in peri-urban housing, vehicle purchases, constrained by the high cost of new models and the explosion in ancillary costs – the liter of unleaded 95 has increased from 25 cents in one year to 1 , 35 euros, and the price of tolls, already revalued by 0.44% in 2021, will be more than 2% in 2022 -, refer massively to the occasion. Preferably not very young models.

For Flavien Neuvy, who heads the Cetelem Automobile Observatory, the issue of the expensive car is part of the “In a blind spot in public mobility policies”. “Each price increase crowds out a little more the young buyers or those belonging to the popular categories and the middle classes, moreover confronted with another inflation, that of the expenses of housing”, he warns.

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