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Ford Trends Report indicates a high degree of anxiety among consumers globally

Ford Trends Report: Consumers Tense, Feeling Overwhelmed

The 2023 Ford Trends report shows people fear inflation, high prices, global warming and more. These insights inform marketers and ad agencies how to tailor brand messages and content.

Much has changed among individuals, workers and companies globally since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s not just about remote work, remote school, remote church and social media trends. The changes strike at the heart of what makes people tick three years after the pandemic started.

Ford releases its annual Trends report trying to tap into societal and individual trends, attitudes and values around mental wellness, self-care, politics, the environment, entertainment, vacations and more as a means of informing product and telematics planners, as well as brand managers and ad agencies, about how best to reach and satisfy car buyers and communicate with customers.

According to the study, which Ford does in partnership with Harris, the top sources of stress today are personal finances – brought about by global inflation and energy costs – and global instability. Sixty-eight percent of adults say they feel “overwhelmed” by all the changes they see taking place in the world.

According to Jen Brace, Ford’s Trends and Futuring Manager, and editor of the report, “Consumers are taking stock of their fears, shifting accountability, reconsidering their reliance on tech, practicing escapism and cautiously leaning into optimism while searching for inspiration and joy.”

Globally, despite the resumption of economic activity, diminished mask-wearing  and social distancing waning, there are feelings in multiple countries of being overwhelmed and fatigued by the impacts and changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The percentage of people who say they “feel overwhelmed”:

  • 86% in Brazil
  • 41% in China
  • 63% in In the U.S.

We are surrounded by disruptive technology – social media, search engines, streaming services, online retailing, global positioning and now increasingly Artificial Intelligence (AI). Companies are adopting AI in as many places as they can to not only track our every move, but also replace customer-service representatives. It’s understandable: Call centers in the U.S. can have 25% call-out-sick rates every day, according to several studies, and turnover in a tight labor market is high. The answer used to be outsourcing call centers to India and other low-wage regions, but consumer complaints are high with that solution. AI Bots are where companies are turning now.

  • Yet, the reality, say the surveys in the Trend Study, is that 73% of respondents find it “creepy” when companies know too much about them.
  • Globally, 43% of men fear their personal information getting into the wrong hands, while 50% of women say they have that fear.
  • 75% of respondents say their every movement will likely be tracked by 2035.

One of the principal fears among consumers is higher prices/inflation. In the auto sector, there is good reason. The average transaction price (ATP) of a new vehicle in the U.S. hit a record high $49,507 in December, an increase of 1.9% ($927) from November and up 4.9% ($2,297) from year-earlier levels. At the same time, used-car prices have been quite high, and there are fewer new-vehicle choices below $20,000.

The fear that a new and better ride is becoming out of reach for people is real, as is the anxiety over not being able to afford some of the basic wants of life—like eating out at a white table-cloth restaurant or taking a vacation--is high among survey respondents with some variations, country to country:

  • 74% in the U.S.
  • 82% in Mexico
  • 80% in the U.K.

Despite the auto industry’s push into electric vehicles as a way to mitigate carbon emissions and climate change, there is still much argument and debate about how fast we can legitimately effect meaningful change when so many energy sources are dependent on fossil fuels, such as the electric grid that powers EVs. Still, the survey results are informative:

  • Globally, 78% of respondents fear that parts of the planet will become uninhabitable if we do not take big steps to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Globally, 42% of men say they are considering making their next vehicle purchase a battery-electric-vehicle (BEV), while 37% of women say the same.
  • In the U.S., 33% of men say they are considering a BEV for their next vehicle purchase, while 36% of women in the U.S. say the same.

Companies regularly grapple with what they should say publicly about certain social issues. Politics is divisive everywhere, especially in the U.S., and most companies tread gently because they don’t want to alienate or repel customers. Automakers, for example, are well aware that buyers of their highly profitable pickup trucks, for example, tend to be more socially conservative than the company as a whole wants to be.  According to the Ford Trends Report, though, 51% of U.S. respondents expect the companies they support to take a stand on social issues. The global percentage is 60% and, again, varies by country:

  • 77% in South Africa
  • 57% in Canada
  • 71% in China

The global reach of the internet and social media means companies have to do more than just tailor messages for different languages and cultures. There also needs to be a consistency of message and position globally, because if a company is found to be espousing one ideal in Southeast Asia that is 180 degrees from what it is saying in North America, those mixed messages and potential hypocrisies will be spotlighted and echoed through social media.

There are many more questions and issues identified in the report. The Ford Trend Report ( is free to peruse and analyze.

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