By on November 30, 2020


Millennials. Image: Fractal Pictures/

Forget all you’ve heard about Millennials (24-39 years old) and their disdain for automobiles. COVID-19 has changed that, as 31 percent of those without a car intend to buy one in the next six months, and 45 percent of them are Millennials.

EY, a global leader in assurance, tax, strategy, and consulting services, and a member of Ernst & Young Global Limited, issued their 2020 EY Mobility Consumer Index, surveying over 3,300 consumers across nine countries. Thirty-one percent of the respondents who don’t own a car plan to buy one in the next six months, while 20 percent that already own a car say they would be open to buying another vehicle. Both groups said that one of their principal reasons to purchase is the pandemic.

Seventy-eight percent said that they would be more likely to use their cars for post-pandemic travel, with Millennials comprising more than half that number at 52 percent.

Despite their vocal support of the Green New Deal and its “Overhauling of transportation systems to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, through investment in zero-emission vehicles and manufacturing; clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and high-speed rail”, 71 percent who presently don’t own a car are looking for a new vehicle that is gas- or diesel-powered, with 23 percent who want a hybrid, and only 6 percent interested in a purely electric vehicle.

Public Transportation Usage Falls

Public transportation usage for work travel has declined 69 percent from pre-pandemic levels, and John Simlett, EY Global Future of Mobility Leader said, “The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the marketplace. Millennials leading the increase in car ownership globally would have been unthinkable a year ago, particularly in terms of buying non-electric vehicles. The industry should recognize that there is a new market out there that didn’t exist until very recently. But with more people buying cars and car usage expected to increase, this leaves policymakers with some difficult questions to answer: How to accommodate all these cars on our road? Aim for a more diverse mobility mix? How will this trend impact investment in public transportation? Is this sustainable, and if not, what needs to be done and by whom?”

In addition to the reduction in public transportation usage for work, there has been a 61 percent decline in use for leisure and entertainment pursuits and a 53 percent reduction for household and social travel.

Italian and German respondents, at 47 percent and 46 percent respectively, are more likely to buy a new car. Ninety percent of Chinese, 85 percent of Indian, and 81 percent of Germans say they will increase their car usage.

Simlett said, “The numbers in emerging markets like China and India bring optimism to automotive executives who have been concerned about the expected sales recovery in those regions. While sales in these markets have already bounced back to some extent, there is room for that trend to continue and this seems to suggest that there is healthy demand on the horizon.”

The Mobility Consumer Index (MCI) tracks the impact of COVID-19 on mobility, providing a unique insight into the shift in personal mobility and car buying behavior amidst the pandemic. Based on a global survey of more than 3,300 consumers in China, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States during August 2020, the MCI is indicative of changing travel patterns and preferences, centered on the rise of working from home, reduced time spent on entertainment and socializing, and increasing digital behavior. Mobility choices and the buying behaviors of a diverse set of consumer personas are among the index’s insights.

Will vaccination make any difference in mobility, returning people to public transportation, or has the coronavirus already changed car buying behavior for the foreseeable future?

[Image: Fractal Pictures/]

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23 Comments on “Millennials Really Do Intend to Buy Cars. Thank the Pandemic....”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “31 percent of those without a car intend to buy one in the next six months”

    I can’t believe any of those statistics, and that one in particular.

    One of my millennial sons – who already has an old car – is even foregoing 401k investment in an intense effort to pay down school debt. He and his wife rent, and have no desire to accrue more debt – especially for a brand new car.

    • 0 avatar

      You son has a car, so he doesn’t fit with that quote. Also, the quote doesn’t specify a new car.

      If your son didn’t have a car, would he “say” he intends to buy a one in the next six months? What he actually would do is another story.

      Yes, the statistics are silly. They talk about what people say they would do, rather than what they would actually do. I also often question the survey pool. They’re poling those that want to be polled and assume the answer would be the same for those that don’t want to be polled.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Sorry, yes, I wasn’t trying to link my son’s precise situation with the headline, except to point out that many young people’s school debt governs their financial outlook. And now, in some cases, they’ve jumped on cheap home loans and have nothing left for a car.

        I agree with your points. As you say, perhaps their purchase would be a used car, which gives no hope to mfrs trying to push new metal.

        We also hear pollsters claim that 1/3 of new car buyers would consider an EV next time, which would make it about 10x higher than it is today. Who pays these people?

        • 0 avatar

          Polsters asking people what they would “consider” is also misleading. For my next car, I’ll consider just about anything. Chances are, I’ll buy ICE.

          Polls can tell you whatever you want them to.

          • 0 avatar

            Dream on. ICE car ownership will be made illegal in 2030.

          • 0 avatar

            In some places, there are plans to ban the sale of new ICE cars by 2030. That does not make owning one illegal. And what actually happens in ten years is anyone’s guess, unless you own a time machine. So there’s no reason to get concerned in the least by your prediction.

            You may still think that Obama is coming to take away your guns. (That lie did get millions of dollars of donations to the NRA from their frightened members, though!)

          • 0 avatar

            ” That does not make owning one illegal”

            Yes, but we can increase annual car registration fee for ICE vehicles. Right now it is around $300 in Alameda county, CA. Let’s make it say $1000 or even better $3000, every year you own ICE. Don’t like it? Move to Texas. Money will go to fight Global Warming and forest fires.

          • 0 avatar

            One more reason not to live in California.

    • 0 avatar

      One anecdotal contrary example does not invalidate the study. Believe it or not, the world is much bigger than your immediate family and friends.

  • avatar

    Millenials intend to buy, until they don’t qualify for a loan and their folks won’t co-sign.

  • avatar

    So first I heard the Millenials are one of the components in the current housing insanity and now I hear 45% of carless ones play to buy in the next six months. So… where did they get money all of the sudden? Were they just holding out on us the whole time and suddenly they turn into proto-boomers?

  • avatar

    “31 percent of those without a car intend to buy one in the next six months”…

    So roughly 69% of individuals without a car have no intentions of acquiring a car anytime soon.

    (Sorry if I sound irritable, I fractured my foot playing with the stupid dog. No wait, I don’t have a dog.)

  • avatar

    3300 People across 9 countries is an incredibly small cross section. Likely not at all representative. Each of those countries is likely a unique market, and each with probably hundreds or even thousands of different socioeconomic and geographic cross-sectional combinations to represent. I’m sure there are other factors I’m not remembering.

    A survey or this scale would need hundreds of thousands or millions of respondents to be viable.

  • avatar

    “Millennials Really Do Intend to Buy Cars”

    Oh no!!! They better don’t! There are already too many cars and too many people on the planet.

  • avatar

    Anyone else want to puke when seeing the photo at the top of this article. There is something just so irritating about these people. Add to that their idiotic obsession with their phones and photographing everything for their “insta” and their “feed” or whatever the hell they call their stupid social media. Huge eye roll.

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