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Earlier this week, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman listed out a host of factors at play behind the precipitous slide in sales being experienced by India’s auto sector. An obvious factor is that cars have become pricier as a result of the official mandate to switch to costlier BS-VI emission norms and adopt stricter safety measures. In addition, she referred to studies that revealed a new “mindset" among millennials that could have had a role in dropping car sales. Indians in the broad age bracket of 22-37 years, she said, prefer to use ride-hailing apps such as Ola and Uber, instead of buying cars and committing themselves to equated monthly instalments (EMIs).

Just how real is this behavioural shift among millennials? Indeed, some studies have pointed to such attitudes. A Deloitte survey, for example, found that about 51% of Indian millennials questioned the need for vehicle ownership. Shared mobility appears to be the road ahead for them. Cars, it would seem, are even losing their power as status symbols among the young. They’d rather be pragmatic. Yet, that thesis is contradicted by a YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted online last year among 5,000 respondents across 180 cities. More than 80% of all millennials in urban India, it found, aspire to a personal vehicle.

As with most things in India, it’s a mixed bag. Some youngsters see car ownership as future, given the ease of hailing cabs and getting around, while others would like to have wheels of their own. Some of them appear to be delaying their decisions. Given the flux in the job market, not everyone thinks it wise to sign up for EMIs to be paid over the next several years. Whether car ownership is being given up en masse, we’ll only know once the country emerges from its current slowdown.

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