Ford Trends 2017: Fake News and Disappearing Water Loom Large

Ford compact SUV
Ford compact SUV | Ford

The annual Ford trends book details what’s on the horizon for people around the world and hints at potential for changes within the auto industry. While engineers design the next cars (fewer), SUVs (more), and trucks (about the same) for upcoming model years, these trends look into the future and suggest to long-term planners what should come next. In recent years, mobility services were among the biggest trends, along with autonomous driving and Swiss Army-knife vehicle usage.

For 2017, the fifth year of trends books from Ford Futurist Sheryl Connelly, the publication looked back to previous books as well as ahead. It probably comes as no surprise that fake news, strides in gender equality, and the global water crisis loomed large. During a conversation with Autos Cheat Sheet, Connelly spoke about how these trends were impacting the world and how companies like Ford were responding.

Here are three major highlights from the 2017 Ford trends book and what Connelly had to say about them.

Toning down the fancy lifestyle

2017 Lincoln Continental
2017 Lincoln Continental | Lincoln

In a section titled “The Good Life 2.0,” the trends book explored shifting attitudes toward wealth. A whopping 70% of Americans believe happiness is more important than prosperity, with about the same amount saying their idea of wealth was different from that of their parents. You can see this influence in the new product line from Lincoln, which aims for “quiet luxury,” and Connelly traced the idea’s roots to the previous decade.

“This isn’t surprising when you look at the aftermath of the Great Recession, which seemingly was brought on by excess and people living beyond their means,” she said. Whereas once people flaunted designer clothes and were admired for it, people think beyond the materials and into the backstory. “In the context of the recession, people wonder what [someone flaunting wealth] is trying to prove and where the money came from.”

Adjusting to a water shortage

Ford trends revisiting sustainability blues
Sustainability trends remain at the top of the list for 2017. No surprise there. | Ford

With ongoing droughts across the U.S. (especially in California) and the water crisis in Flint emerging in 2016, preserving resources has never been more important. The Ford trends book noted that two-thirds (66%) of the world’s population faces potential water shortages by 2025. Another remarkable statistic involved the situation out West. According to The New York Times, the average American consumes food that requires 300 gallons of California water to produce every week.

While automakers use a great deal of energy and water to make vehicles, Ford received CDP’s highest rating (“A”) in water management for the second time in 2016. Going further, the company said in October it would reduce water usage by 72% by 2020. Connelly noted the pioneering work Ford did with a green roof on the company campus in Michigan and cited the company’s founder as well. “I think it speaks to the legacy of Henry Ford and his agrarian roots,” she said. “He always tried to do more with less.”

Integrity in truth and business

PLANTATION, FL - APRIL 03: Car salesman Mo Chtaili (L) helps Wolfgang Ruiz as he shops for a car at Rick Case Plantation Hyundai on April 3, 2012 in Plantation, Florida. Reports indicate that automakers expect to have sold more than 1.4 million vehicles in March, about 15 percent more than a year ago and the most since 2007. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Fake news has an impact on all parts of life, including car shopping | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A fake news story led to a shooting in a D.C. pizza parlor in December 2016. False news of a looming FBI “indictment” of Hillary Clinton, reported by Fox News’s Brett Baier, piled onto a story that affected the 2016 presidential election. So it’s fair to say inaccurate reporting and conspiracy theories have entered the mainstream. Indeed, 71% of Americans and 61% of Brits said it’s getting harder to find non-biased, fact-based news.

As far as the auto industry is concerned, consumers face a similar challenge during the shopping experience. “It’s become daunting to navigate these spaces and become better informed,” Connelly noted. “Obviously, politics immediately comes to mind, but it happens when you are searching for a product, too. It’s really hard to find the solution that’s best for you and figure out if it’s the right purchase.” At nearly 115 years in business, Ford aims to remain a transparent company that continues to prioritize integrity. It won’t be as easy as it sounds.

Source: Ford trends 2017

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