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Ford’s Chief Futurist Discusses What Makes Generation Z Buyers Different

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We’re officially at the point where Generation Z (people born between 1996 and 2009) is coming into its own, and these young folks are beginning to buy cars, houses, and make other major financial decisions. And like Millenials and Gen Xers before them, the folks from Generation Z are coming of age during some sort of major financial crisis, one that could affect their car-buying behavior, according to Ford’s chief futurist, Sheryl Connelly.

“Generation Z someday will be renamed the COVID kids,” Connelly said during a recent online presentation hosted by the Society of Automotive Analysts. “Their attitude is, ‘I don’t care if I fail, I’m going to try. They are searching for learning and growth, not necessarily excellence. They are stumbling through. Some are running businesses from their parents’ basement. Signals suggest they’ll be more frugal.”

Schools have closed during the pandemic, limiting Gen Z’ers peer interaction, which has led to a greater feeling of loneliness, Ford’s research has found. However, this was true even before the pandemic, though Connelly thinks that this is temporary. A more positive finding for Ford is Gen Z’s feelings toward autonomous vehicles, which were more enthusiastic than any other generation.

Regardless, while many feared millennials were going to shun automobiles altogether and tank the industry, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Generation Z. The majority of those polled felt that vehicles are a necessity and that they couldn’t imagine life without a vehicle.

As Connelly pointed out, both Gen Xers and Millennials had trouble finding work during down economic times but bounced back when things improved. “Many of them were unemployed or underemployed,” Connelly said. “They postponed large purchases.” Now, the automaker is banking on this happening a third time.

We’ll have more analysis like this to share soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for 24/7 Ford news coverage.

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Written by Brett Foote

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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  1. I bet a GEN XYZ , ABC etc.. does not want their vehicles arriving with “RUST” like the 2021 F150s are.

  2. “I don’t care if I fail…” because I have no skin in the game and nobody can make me responsible if we don’t want to be.

    • Your absolutely correct, why not try anything because Im not responsible for my own actions, the liberals made sure of that. If someone calls me out I will burn down their store, their city, or cancel them on Social Media. A Generation doomed for failure, living off the previous Generations.

  3. I still am wondering how my grandma could afford a brand new Plymouth Barracuda as a waitress which she still has (the Barracuda) and it works great when I can’t afford any new car and when I can it has plastic all over, horrible quality issues, and really isn’t that practical. I don’t know what has happened but the economy clearly still has issues starting the rich and their little stock market games and them bribing politicians for their benefit.

  4. As a Gen Z member, You talk a lot for being old and used out. We the new leaders of this world. You better watch out lol we are smarter and wiser then you think. Abuse, hunger, rape, and many more horrific childhoods that 70+% of gen z has dealt with. Trauma levels are through the roof. But what they don’t tell you, trauma leads to knowledge and power. And you can learn beyond yourself and others. Fords crap and I’m a mustang owner. You want to do some real studies? Try studying a better job.

    • anyone who announces their ‘leadership’ isn’t a leader.

      previous generations have lived through far worse. it just wasn’t broadcasted into everyone’s head via technology simply because it didn’t exist.

      imagine growing up being taught that at any moment fire will rain down from the sky and literally obliterate your city. and there’s nothing you can do about it except cower in a hole or basement.

      you think covid is the first ever pandemic? please. previous generations lived through multiple deadly diseases and still survived and didn’t whine about it.

      economic uncertainty? – ever hear of the great depression.

      maybe if you stop looking at ‘gig’ jobs basically being a pizza delivery boy your generation would actually have value.

      you don’t know sh!t son

    • Sorry, but being triggered and being traumatized are totally different. Yelling the loudest and a pervasive lack of personal responsibility doesn’t make you leadership material it makes you an unemployed jerk. The lack of idividuality, thin skin, hive mentality, and a completely public life at the same time is causing your own self-inflicted insanity. The inability to apply logical (adult) solutions to problems isn’t unique to gen z but it certainly is the norm for it.

      Oh yeah I forgot here🏆 achievement unlocked for participating.

  5. I’m a gen Z and I love classic mustangs. We have to put off large purchases like cars because jobs that pay well no longer exist. It takes years to do that now. So if Ford wants to make profit, go to China. Oh wait you already did. Cause if companies don’t want to pay well, nobody will be able to afford crap. So keep making your crap in Mexico and China Ford, cause once the money generation is gone, you will be gone too and so will your chinese worker profit. Too many people, too much inflation, too much corporate greed. It’ll be sad to see ford go.

  6. Having read some Gen Z comments on here, you kids are funny thinking you’re the leaders and will change the world. Umm, no you’re not and no you won’t.

  7. Affordability and cost of ownership are huge issues for both younger buyers and working class people.
    “Re”leasing schemes on two year old lease turn in vehicles is only a partial fix for this issue.
    As prices rise the build quality is extremely important as well. My 2016 Fiesta ST is showing rust under the panel seems and its not a winter driven car!
    How does this jibe with 7 year payment plans? Is there going to be any car remaining to trade for a new one?
    These issues really cut to the heart of pride of ownership and the desire to own a car rather than just hail an Uber or rent a car and forget about visiting a dealership anymore.

  8. As the grouchy old guy in this conversation…. I agree that the gen Z’ers are smarter, and increasingly capable…… and they will do just fine thank you going forward. Every generation had its challenges and trials which makes me a little skeptical of this touchy feely commentary by Ford’s futurist. In the end, affordability, quality, function and yes style will be the order of the day for them….. just as it was for all those grouchy old guys and gals…. back in the day! Just sayin…..

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