It takes three to five years to bring a new vehicle to market (like the 2017 Ford GT supercar pictured here), and changes in longterm planning require even more insight—will populations migrating to megacities want to buy cars in 20 years? Will everyone want autonomous driving cars or will they prefer mass transit? For the fourth year in a row Ford documents their findings in Looking Further with Ford, an annual trend report which does more than inform their own design, product development and marketing. It’s a useful resource for other businesses and people like our readers—who we like to say are creating the future. Led by CH friend Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s Futurist and the person responsible for forming her insights into this trend report, 2016’s insights are informative as well as entertaining and available for free. It’s full of surprising stats, design breakthroughs, influential events in 2015, and overall micro-trends. We talked about her insights over dinner and got some background to this year’s report.
“2015 and the decade prior was all about disillusionment. For 2016, we’re looking at inspiration, ingenuity and stories of identity. Those are the three anchors for [this report]” which organizes trends into categories like Buying into the Flexible Economy (how the world of work is changing, from the rise of sharing economy platforms to the increase of freelancers and telecommuters), Mindful Goes Mainstream (no longer a fad, but something consciously being incorporated in every step of our lives) and Swiss Army Life (channeling Marie Kondo by getting more use out of fewer things, with a strong emphasis on purposefulness and utility).
Connelly expanded on some key sections, like Time Poverty. “So much to do, so little time,” she says. “Here, we did some really interesting research about how people resent it. We pulled out an example from France: there’s a union in France that’s trying to prohibit any emails being sent to employees after 6PM.” She adds that we’re particularly hard on ourselves. “On average, Americans—relative to their global counterparts—spent the most time on their mobile phones; close to five hours a day.”
“‘In Awe of Aging’ is [another] trend we’re really excited about. The aging population is a global trend that will have widespread implications, but what we’re doing here is celebrating ‘the best’ stories,” says Connelly. “The oldest woman to ever give birth was 70! She gave birth to twins through fertility treatment.” From finding companions on the “Tinder for seniors” website Stitch (apparently loneliness causes more deaths than smoking or obesity) to running marathons at the age of 101, this information is more than just shock value. Throughout the report, Connelly notes why these trends are important to Ford. “When you think about these people who are defying stereotypes and redefining what it means to live in your third age, it has really close ties to the way we design and engineer the vehicles,” she explains. “And also, we don’t talk about this often enough, but it’s tied to the business case for autonomous driving vehicles. Everyone is intrigued by autonomous vehicles. They think it’s going to be the young kids that don’t want to be away from their tablets or computers that are all about it. But I think it’s the baby boomers who love cars, that say, ‘There’s no way I’m giving up my car keys. And so if autonomous vehicles are what allow me to stay mobile, free and independent…’ I think that’s where it’s going to go.”
The complete 2016 Looking Forward With Ford Trends report is available for free download.
Image of 2017 Ford GT by Josh Rubin, screenshots courtesy of Ford Trends 2016