By on December 14, 2020

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

The ninth annual Looking Further with Ford Trends Report has us asking if consumers are as resilient amid the pandemic as Ford claims. The study expresses how COVID-19 has wrought economic, political, and emotional woes, testing the limits of individuals, families, healthcare systems, and society. Focusing on global trends to understand shifting consumer behaviors, it measures how far we’ve come, and where we’re going. This year, the OEM also examined how resilient people are.

“COVID-19 has changed us – but to what degree?” said Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s global consumer trends and futuring manager.

Surveying 14 countries, 69 percent are overwhelmed by the changes. Asked how well they have adapted, 53 percent say it’s harder, while 47 percent say it’s been easier. Younger generations have taken it harder: 63 percent of Gen Zers versus 42 percent of Boomers. Families and individuals are rewriting the rules in the workplace, family life and social connections, as well as their consumption of goods and services.

The New York Post reported that the US saw its deadliest week since the pandemic started, with a 44 percent rise in fatalities compared to the prior week, hard to grasp how adapting could be seen as easier for anyone.

Fifteen-thousand and nine-hundred-sixty-six Americans died from the coronavirus in the seven-day period between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project. The US saw its highest number of deaths in a single day last Wednesday, with 3,088 fatalities, the first time deaths topped 3,000 in 24 hours. The previous single-day record was 2,769 deaths.

The US also broke a record in new cases, recording 1.4 million new infections in the between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9, a 27 percent rise over the previous week. More than 106,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The 11th-highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita, we have 886 fatalities per 1 million people, according to Statista.

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

Anxiety is high and with good reason. Fear of contracting COVID-19 is foremost, along with concerns about the pandemic’s impact on communities, employment, education and just about every aspect of life. Sixty-three percent of adults globally say are more stressed than they were a year ago, and four out of five say they should take better care of their emotional well being. Aware of the pandemic’s implications on mental health, people are trying to cope and connect.

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

Demarcations between work and life have disappeared for many. To beat back the monotony of the pandemic and the confines of home, consumers are looking ways to escape, some in their vehicles. More than 25 percent of adults globally who own a vehicle are using it to relax, 20 percent say they use it to find privacy, and 17 percent are using it as a place to work, according to the report.

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

The need for companionship and sense of family has been reshaped. Loneliness is pervasive, and 50 percent say they’re lonely on a regular basis. Younger generations feel this more acutely, as Gen Zers are nearly twice as likely to feel lonely as Boomers, 64 percent versus 34 percent. As a result, many are reconsidering where they live, moving closer to family, and finding companionship online and off.

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic


Worldwide gaps in inequality and inequity are exacerbated by the pandemic’s impact on low-income communities, ethnic minorities and women. According to Ford, some brands are more aware of the division and stepping up as activists. Seventy-six percent of adults say they expect brands to take a stand on social issues, and 75 percent say brands are trying to do the right thing. What wasn’t said was concern about brands that have taken a beating for their social activism, and how they’ve continued in spite of economic repercussions.

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

The pandemic has supposedly transformed how and what we buy. How many consumers embrace the new normal is dubious, even though the study says 75 percent of adults appreciate how the shopping experience has changed since the pandemic began, and supposedly 41 percent don’t want to go back to the way they shopped previously.

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

The pandemic may have you feeling stuck, but private transportation is spiking. Bike sales have soared as gyms remain closed, and car sales have boomed. The Ford study would like us to believe that city planners are ready to implement autonomous driving, citing 67 percent of adults globally as saying they are hopeful about autonomous vehicles, and 68 percent of parents say they’d rather see their children ride in a self-driving car than with a stranger. Whether that includes bus drivers is unknown, sort of an odd aside in the autonomous driving discussion, isn’t it?

Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic

Early on, air quality was seen as a lockdown benefit, but optimism receded as plastics and other disposables made it clear sustainability was impossible. Are 46 percent of Gen Zers concerned the pandemic has made us more wasteful, and 47 percent believe that long-term, the pandemic will negatively impact the environment? Not according to Vancouver, Washington’s Waste Connections, Inc., who said that in this metro area, less than ten percent of the residents recycle across all age groups and income levels.

Clearly more optimistic than realistic, the Looking Further with Ford Trends Report makes a case for more adaptive behavior during the pandemic, increased loneliness, social and economic inequality, autonomous driving, and environmental concerns.

[Images: Ford]

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17 Comments on “Are Consumers as Resilient Amid the Pandemic as Ford Says?...”

  • avatar

    It depends on where you are on the socioeconomic spectrum. The wealthy have made huge gains during the pandemic. The upper middle-class has probably done better because they’ve had to stop spending on dining out, vacations or recreation. The lower middle-class and lower class without skilled trades or secondary education have done worse due to lay-offs in the service sector.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, this downturn has been horrible for the working poor.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 I am upper middle class and can work from home (thankfully) so this year has been all about saving money. We canceled at least two, maybe three vacations. Zero dinning out, but about the same recreation.

      Due to lack of driving its like I got a raise – no tolls, no gas, no wear and tear. My daily driver’s mileage basically means I got a free year of life added to it. I’ve driven about 3k this year compared to 10k last year! We are currently not required back in the office until March so the savings continues.

      I planned on getting a new (used) vehicle in about 6 months (summer 2021). COVID has had almost no effect on this decision. I’ll just be able to put more cash down on the deal.

      • 0 avatar

        I feel like I got a raise as well due to all the cancellations of trips and events that would have been expensive. We generally do pretty elaborate Spring Break every year. Plane tickets, food, lodging and entertainment for 5 people for 9 days during peak travel times is more than I care to discuss. We did a Disney Cruise in 2019. The money I am saving from no spring break in 2020 and 2021 alone has paid for a new bathroom, furnace, air conditioner and will pay for new roof and concrete driveway in the coming year. Its almost as if the good lord himself has reached down from the heavens to smite my wife’s spending habits. Hopefully we stay healthy and this will end up being a boon to my overall financial health.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      +1, Lou_BC. That’s pretty much it.

      One exception might be if you’re working in high-demand service jobs, such as at HD, Lowe’s, or Walmart. There is no recession in those places.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree Lou, and that was the plan.

  • avatar

    I didn’t see a mention of remote work. There is a big overlap between professionals who can work from home and new car buyers. If people go from 5 days a week in the office to 2 (or even 0) that could mean people keeping their cars a lot longer. If you were driving 20k miles a year you would very likely need a new car in 10 years. If you’re suddenly now driving 5k, in 10 years your car will only have 50k miles and be practically brand new.

    • 0 avatar

      “in 10 years your car will only have 50k miles and be practically brand new.”

      Weatherstripping and other rubber bits that “age” the way a vehicle feels will still be impacted by the passage of time even when mostly sitting still. Yes, it is a repairable situation, but it could still lead to a wandering eye.

      I also think you’re overestimating how many *new* vehicle buyers were trading out due to high mileage rather than just because they felt like it once something is paid off (or mostly paid off). Lower miles driven should also increase trade-in resale value so the depreciation penalty of swapping out shouldn’t be as large.

      I do think that continued remote work will make leasing more attractive though because commuting will take up less of the mileage allowance.

    • 0 avatar

      They trickle down afterwards but how many comfortable, now teleworking professionals ever used their cars up? A third of new vehicles are on three year lease, that’s who leases them.

  • avatar

    The study bears out what’s happening in my own life – I’ve put a TON of miles on my car since the outbreak began, despite telecommuting.

    And not to be nasty, but driving during the worst pandemic time – early April, around here – was absolutely great. Highways were absolutely deserted. It was definitely a coping mechanism for me.

    • 0 avatar

      In the spring I was racking up miles on my truck out of boredom. I put 10,000 km on my Suzuki mostly in the backcountry once riding season hit. I’d have easily done more but it was a very wet muddy summer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…supposedly 41 percent don’t want to go back to the way they shopped previously”

    Good – does that mean Ford will adopt a direct sales model and tell their dealers to get lost?

    Also, where can I get a job as a “futuring manager”?

    • 0 avatar

      Futuring Manager job is much easier if you work for a company which um… paces itself when it comes to innovation.

      My question for Ford’s Futuring Manager: When will the Detroit Lions have their next winning postseason?

      [Backup question: Which vehicle segment will Ford Motor Company exit next?]

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree with Lou_BC it has impacted the poor more. For my wife and I we have postponed the annual Cancun all inclusive trip, we don’t eat out, and working at home has saved me a bundle of money along with hardly driving. Did buy a used 2008 Ford Ranger last June but it cost me a lot less than the Cancun trip. I have ordered more on line but I still spending less and I will likely in the future do most of my purchasing online and will likely start ordering my wife’s and my prescriptions online. I will be putting a new shower enclosure in our master bathroom early next year. I have discovered that there are a lot less things I need and want and what I do need can for the most part be ordered online.

  • avatar

    wow what an amazing car-related news article

  • avatar
    Jeff Semenak

    “Seventy-six percent of adults say they expect brands to take a stand on social issues…” I question, the accuracy of your Survey.

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