Press release

18 Nov 2020 London, GB

Millennials to lead COVID-induced car ownership boom – EY survey

Nearly a third (31%) of people without a car intend to buy one in the next six months, 45% of those will be millennials

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Adam Holden

EY UK&I Media Relations Senior Manager

Passionate media relations and public relations professional helping to provide insight and clarity to complex business issues. Husband and father to twin boys, and a golden retriever.

Related topics Mobility Automotive
  • Nearly a third (31%) of people without a car intend to buy one in the next six months, 45% of those will be millennials
  • Only 6% seek a purely electric vehicle
  • Public transport use for work travel declined by 69% from pre-pandemic levels

Millennials (24-39 years-old) are expected to lead a car ownership boom in the coming six months across the globe, representing 45% of all first-time car owners according to the results of the 2020 EY Mobility Consumer Index, which surveyed more than 3,300 consumers across nine countries, including 314 respondents from the UK.

Nearly a third (31%) of those respondents who do not currently own a car say they plan to buy one in the next six months, while 1 in 5 (20%) that already own a car say they would be open to purchasing an additional vehicle. Both groups cited the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the top reasons for their purchases.

How likely are none car owners in UK likely to buy?

In the UK, 27% of respondents said they are likely to buy a car, with a slant towards used car (16%) versus new (11%). This reflects the trends across the wider marketplace.

More than three-quarters (78%) of respondents say that they are going to be more likely to use their cars for travel in a post-pandemic world with millennials making more than half of that number (52%).

71% of non-car owners currently seeking a new car are looking to buy a gasoline or diesel model, with just 6% looking to purchase a purely electric vehicle and 23% looking to buy a hybrid.

John Simlett, EY Global Future of Mobility Leader, says: “The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the marketplace. Millennials leading the increase in global car ownership would have been unthinkable a year ago, particularly in terms of buying non-electric cars. The industry should recognize that there is a new market out there that didn’t exist until very recently. But with more people buying cars and car usage expected to increase, this leaves policymakers with some very difficult questions to answer: How to accommodate all these cars on our roads aim for a more diverse mobility mix? How will this trend impact public transport investment? Quite simply, is this sustainable, and if not, what needs to be done and by whom?”

Public transport usage falls dramatically, as China and Italy lead automotive boom

The survey also finds that public transport will be severely hit, with a 69% reduction in public transport use for work, a 61% fall in usage for leisure and entertainment pursuits, and a 53% decline for household and social travel.

Across the UK, travel for work declined 54% (the smallest decline across the Index) and the third highest decline (42%) for household and social travel.

Respondents from Italy (47%) and Germany (46%) are more likely to purchase a new car. Meanwhile, respondents from China were most likely to increase their car usage (90% of respondents), closely followed by India (85%) and Germany (81%).

Simlett says: “The numbers in emerging markets like India and China will bring optimism to automotive executives who will have been concerned about the expected sales recovery in those regions. While sales in these markets have already bounced back to some extent, there is room for that trend to continue and this seems to suggest that there is healthy demand on the horizon.”

David Borland, EY UK & Ireland Automotive Leader, comments adds:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a tumultuous year for the automotive sector, significantly denting consumer confidence in the UK, and this will be further exacerbated by the second national lockdown. However, despite showrooms closing until at least December, there is a strong view that dealers are much better prepared this time around, having adapted sales processes and embraced new technologies allowing consumers a more immersive digital sales & contactless experience.

“If, as the Mobility Consumer Index suggests, there is going to be a millennial car ownership boom, the way manufacturers & dealers interact with these buyers will be crucial to securing market share. Careful consideration needs to be given to targeting this distinct customer group, offering the products and services that meet their specific needs and wants – with a particular focus on making these available online and through the channels that millennials are comfortable using.”