4 October 2012 ­ – If the current downward shift in consumer spending patterns is in fact structural and not cyclical, then what would the early signs look like?

For one, there will be more collaborative consumption  – the sharing of expensive items. Like cars.

GoGet, for instance, the largest car share operator, has 800 cars and 20,000 members in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

In Sydney, a survey by SGS Economics and Planning commissioned by the City of Sydney this week revealed that car share trips had more than tripled in Sydney over the past three years.

According to the survey 10,000 city residents, or 6.4 per cent of households, are now members of a car share service.

Small businesses make up 30 per cent of membership.

This had eased traffic congestion, freed up parking and saved residents $21 million a year, according to the study.

All up this has saved carshare members $18.5 million in deferred car purchases and saved the city car parking spaces.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the city provided nearly 400 car parking spaces for car share companies, GoGet, GreenShareCar and Flexicar, and that each space replaced parking for 12 other cars within a 250 metre radius.

It’s a growing sector for the car hire companies as well, the City pointed out. Hertz recently took over the operations of Flexicar, and CharterDrive has been relaunched as GreenShareCar.