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The joys of sharing

Two children sharing a piece of watermelon are simultaneously taking a bite.
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The fast-spreading trend promises freedom and is infiltrating all sectors.

Sharing is now cooler than owning, and Generation Y is embracing the trend: thirty-somethings are sharing food, outfits and apartments on sharing platforms; they are streaming films instead of buying DVDs; they are using co-working places rather than fixed offices, Instagram instead of photo albums, and Facebook instead of diaries.

Sharing is an age-old, basic human instinct. Apart from being essential to survival, sharing keeps communities together and is a tried-and-tested method of doing business. Sharing also creates an “economy of mutual favours” in which participants exchange goods and services instead of money.

Rational economic theories seldom hit the bullseye when they try to explain sharing’s function, purpose and benefits. But, as we have seen time and time again, people are not rational “homo economicus”. Many experiments have shown that humans are not by nature selfish. Sharing is in our genes. We invite friends over to eat, and lend out power tools and books, raincoats and scarves. We are often only too happy to part with our personal belongings and lend them to a group of trusted friends – whether or not we receive anything in return.

While altruism partly explains why the sharing economy is booming, another reason is finance. People are motivated to earn some extra cash by temporarily renting out their apartments. Users then choose these apartments because they are cheaper than hotels and usually offer a personal touch.

A bike is photographed from behind. Two people are sitting on it. One is riding the bike while the other is sitting on the bicycle rack.

The primary driver for sharing’s renaissance, though, is the radically fast pace of modern life. We book city breaks to Paris, Lisbon or Bangkok within minutes. We increasingly prefer self-employment to a salaried job. Maximum flexibility is essential at work, in our relationships, and even in terms of consumption. Permanent ownership, and the obligations that come with it, can hinder this flexibility.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also fuelling interest in sharing private belongings. Friends and acquaintances no longer just consist of our family, neighbours and colleagues, as these days we share our personal lives with complete strangers. The distances between people are continually shrinking, and the willingness to hand out personal belongings is greater than ever. This mechanism works even better when we have rating systems that tell us how much we can trust our new buyers, partners and sellers.

The sharing economy model is now infiltrating all sectors, including the automotive industry. The ParkNow platform – one of five new joint ventures from Daimler AG and BMW – allows users to share free parking spaces. ShareNow, another such venture, combines the successful car2go and DriveNow car sharing services under one umbrella. Furthermore, alongside creating attractive vehicles such as the new electric SUV EQC, Daimler AG also has EQ, its new product and technology brand which relies on sharing as part of its business strategy. “Mobility on demand is becoming an extremely exciting domain, including as a supplement to vehicle ownership,” explains Jörg Heinermann, Head of Marketing and Sales at EQ. “Imagine owning a Mercedes-Benz in Hamburg, and making lease payments for it that also include a subscription for ShareNow in every European capital, for example, so you can always be mobile even when you fly abroad.”

EQC 400 4MATIC:
Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,8–19,7 kWh/100 km;
CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km.⁶

New technology and digital solutions are providing additional momentum. Bookings via apps or portals are quick and convenient. Standard car keys are being replaced by codes, chips and special connectivity boxes. Billing is transparent and automatic. Sharing economy services fit seamlessly into everyday life.

Identically dressed twin brothers with curly brown hair are sitting opposite each other and sharing a desk. One is looking at his smartphone while the other is working on his notebook.

The sharing economy is by no means a cure-all, as many of us will still want to own our own Mercedes-Benz. After all, sharing can be annoying – if the car-sharing vehicle has not been left in a clean condition, for example. But the sharing economy does bring people together. It facilitates life for many urbanites, and it is increasingly changing mobility. As cities continue to become more and more populated, space and freedom are becoming precious commodities. Car sharing is a sustainable way to ease traffic in cities.

Heinermann goes one step further by underlining this fact: “What we are really selling is not just outstanding vehicles, but the opportunity to experience unlimited personal mobility. Philosophically speaking, we are selling freedom. Personal freedom. That was the revolution Carl Benz started in 1886, with the first automobile.”

⁶ Stromverbrauch und Reichweite wurden auf der Grundlage der VO 692/2008/EG ermittelt. Stromverbrauch und Reichweite sind abhängig von der Fahrzeugkonfiguration. Weitere Informationen zum offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und den offiziellen spezifischen CO₂-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem „Leitfaden über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO₂-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch aller neuen Personenkraftwagenmodelle“ entnommen werden, der an allen Verkaufsstellen und bei der Deutschen Automobil Treuhand GmbH unter www.dat.de unentgeltlich erhältlich ist.