The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Consumers' Intention to Use Shared-Mobility Services in German Cities

One sector that severely suffers from the outbreak of the coronavirus is carsharing (i.e., short-term car access). The downswing of the carsharing industry may not only experience negative economic consequences but also ecological ones. Carsharing has the potential to reduce emissions, occupied space, and congestion and hence can actively contribute to mitigating climate change. As Bill Gates strikingly states: “Covid-19 is awful. Climate change could be worse.” For this reason, it is important to understand which underlying mechanisms drive carsharing usage during the Covid-19 pandemic. The current research has the overall objective to provide deeper insights into the mediating mechanisms that explain carsharing usage intention during the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, we draw on signaling theory to explore how different claims (environmental claims, safety claims) that prompt two different opposing underlying processes (perceived ecological benefits, perceived physical risk) influence carsharing usage intention. An online experiment employing a 3 (environmental claim vs. safety claim vs. no claim) × 2 (high information diagnosticity vs. low information diagnosticity) between-subjects design with participants acquired by the online panel platform Clickworker was conducted in April 2020. Fictitious labels and fictitious advertisements served as stimulus material and constituted the five experimental conditions. The data were analyzed by a multicategorial moderated mediation analysis and a multivariate analysis of covariance. Results reveal that environmental claims can stimulate perceived ecological benefits, which, in turn, positively affect carsharing usage intention. Interestingly, our research demonstrates that safety claims cannot decrease perceived physical risk in the context of Covid-19 and carsharing. Nevertheless, perceived physical risk has a (marginal) negative influence on carsharing usage intention and hence should not be discarded altogether. The findings of this article offer new insights into the mental processes that guide consumer decision-making during the coronavirus crisis and also offer important policy implications by highlighting the relevance of environmental claims during the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the negative influence of perceived physical risk on carsharing usage intention points to the need for alternative measures to reduce users’ risk perceptions.

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