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Consumer perceptions of remanufactured automotive parts and policy implications for transitioning to a circular economy in Sweden
The transition to a circular economy requires enabling conditions that remove existing barriers in product re-use and material recovery operations. Promoting longer lifetimes and efficient re-use of products has a significant potential to save resources and reduce adverse environmental impacts, especially for products that have large resource footprints related to extraction and production processes, as for instance automobiles. Remanufacturing is a product life extension strategy promoting the effective and efficient re-use of products by replacing worn-out components with used or end-of-life parts that have been restored to “like-new” condition and functionality. Past research on the environmental benefits of remanufacturing indicates that remanufacturing saves up to 85% on materials and that the energy required for remanufacturing versus original production can be significantly lower. Despite these positive characteristics, remanufacturing is still not a widespread resource efficiency strategy in several economic sectors, with a varied degree of uptake in different geographical, industrial and institutional contexts. A critical factor for the development of remanufacturing in the automotive sector is the consumers’ perception of remanufactured products, followed by supply-side factors such as technology and operations management. Previous research found that consumers’ perceptions of a certain product or service constitute a critical factor in the consumers’ decision-making process. However, only a few studies have explored consumers’ perceptions of remanufactured automotive parts, notably in the U.S.A. and Japan but not in Europe. This contribution analyses the results of an on-line survey (n=200) of Swedish consumers, concerning their knowledge of remanufactured auto parts, their perception on benefits and risks of remanufactured auto parts, and their price consciousness. The survey revealed that Swedish consumers have limited knowledge about remanufactured products, perceiving them as a greater risk in purchasing decisions, and demonstrate equivocal price consciousness. Drawing on these results, this contribution discusses potential policy-driven pathways to increase consumer awareness and induce the uptake of remanufactured automotive parts. Potential policy instruments include the introduction of a remanufacturing quality certification scheme, tax reduction on remanufactured parts, and better visibility and access of these components to private and public customers. Specifically for the public sector, the policy implications in relation to public procurement processes are analysed. Concluding, the article illustrates the potential of policy interventions to raise consumers’ perceptions of remanufactured automotive parts and to create a market pull for expanding their uptake, and thus increasing the overall resource efficiency in the automotive sector.