Car-sharing services such as BlaBlaCar (10 million members in 13 European countries) or Autolib’ (170,000 subscribers in Paris) have become popular for a growing number of people, particularly the young and urban. The trend raises many questions about the shifting status and dented image of an object that made such a deep mark on the 20th century.

Leading brands acknowledge the crisis in the perception of motor vehicles in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the United States. Fortunately for them, consumers in Russia, China, India and Brazil, among others, see things differently.

In western Europe there is plenty to suggest that interest in cars is cooling. Predictably the economic crisis has had an impact, but the experts report that the market overreacted to the downturn. “Car sales in the European Union, between 2007 and 2013, fell by almost 25%. Though the economic climate is expected to improve, we do not expect to see a return to pre-crisis volumes,” says Michel Costes, head of specialist consultants Inovev. Substantial investment in public transport has also contributed to a gradual decline in household spending on new cars.