As automakers look ahead to a world where overpopulation and unprecedented urban congestion factor heavily in the equation, it’s clear the solutions must include more than building new cars. Ford Motor Company is especially preoccupied with the challenges facing the next generations, and its annual trends report, “Looking Further With Ford,” offers an opportunity to check on the state of things across the globe.
More of a survey covering the whole of modern life than a business plan for automotive companies, the report tackles topics of overpopulation, autonomous driving, the flexible economy, sustainability, and a new generation of people who could live to 150 years old, among other issues. While pointing out lingering areas of pessimism, Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly also noted solutions worth exploring, many of which are already in the works.
The report compiles data from a wide variety of sources. BAV Consulting’s Global Survey of September 2015, which involved research conducted across five continents, serves as the backbone. For anyone interested in the future of the automotive industry, mobility, or life in general, the Ford trends study is a must-read. Here are seven takeaways from the 2016 edition.
1. Self-reliance is back
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” appeared in 1841, and American life has come full circle 175 years later. Emerson’s focus was on the need for citizens of a young country to forge an individualistic path. According to the study, modern society’s obsession with local heroism and proficiency stems in part from a lack of faith in public figures. Whereas 56% of American adults in Ford’s study said they can find heroes in the community, just 22% say they can find them in government, while 42% say they exist in the workplace. Taking action at the grass-roots level is key, and it will take innovative mobility solutions for them to succeed.
2. Vehicles better be useful and versatile
Consumers are expecting more from large purchases than ever, what the Ford study refers to as the “Swiss Army Life” effect. This trend partly explains the continued rise of utility vehicles, but durability is part of the equation as well. More than three quarters of U.S. car buyers expect a new vehicles to last 10 years at minimum, according to the report. New automobiles better offer a way to get away from the city as well as an economical mode of transport during the work week while being tech-friendly across the board.
3. Enhanced mobility must combat time loss
Henry Ford, the industrialist who founded his automotive company in 1901, was preoccupied with mobility, and Ford’s heirs continue to push this aspect of the business as new products emerge. Autonomous car tech is one solution that can combat the loss of time from commuting and the general pressure felt by employees (49% of adults under 35) to check work emails outside of business hours. With “time poverty” afflicting young and old alike, more efficient transportation will be a top priority for automakers, even if that means taking hands off the wheel and cars off the road.
4. The world is ready for self-driving cars
The resistance to self-driving cars appears to decrease every year, and a look around the globe shows how many people are ready for it today. According to the trends report, 84% of adults in India and 78% of adults in China say they can see themselves buying an autonomous vehicle down the road. Along with issues of traffic, pollution, and stress that self-driving cars could alleviate, Connelly told Autos Cheat Sheet that increased safety is another factor appealing to Asian drivers. In the West, adults in the U.K. (30%) and U.S. (40%) are more resistant to the trend.
5. Car customization is big inside and out
Being an individual is more important to car owners than ever. In Ford’s report, 54% of adults around the globe said standing out is better than blending into the pack. At the same time, higher commuting times are making a car’s interior more important than in the past. Whereas exterior detailing was a trend for classic cars, a shift to the areas surrounding the driver’s seat is occurring. Ford is offering more customization options in products and the shopping experience to adapt.
6. Sustainable vehicles are becoming essentials
Young consumers are feeling guiltier about their footprint than older generations. In the study, 60% of adults under 35 said they were creating too much waste, compared to 45% of those over 35. A majority around the world tends to favor products from recycled content as well, while a whopping 80% say companies play the biggest role in waste reduction. Looking at the vehicle landscape, it appears electric cars and other sustainable options are coming of age at the perfect time as far as consumers are concerned. Those unconcerned with global vehicle impact are going the way of the dinosaur.
7. Modern workforces disrupt conventional ownership
Ford’s trends report examined mobility issues from the angle of where people work and how they work. With half of global freelancers between the age of 26 and 35 and telecommuting growing 79% between 2005 and 2012, automakers are increasingly looking at a population that does not have to commute to work. When they do, the trend of urban living suggests public transit could be the trick. Disruption of traditional ownership appears to be happening as expected. Multimodal transportation will be more relevant in the coming years.