As the world slowly adjusts to COVID 19 and lurches forward taking step, after cautious step, the automotive industry has been irrevocably changed along with people’s behaviours.

By Carter Hammett

Some interesting data emerges in terms of how people’s driving and spending habits have changed since the pandemic first raised its ugly head. A recent Angus Reid survey asked a sample of 1509 Canadians about their working preferences in a post-COVID world. 

It appears the majority of Canadians aren’t really that interested in returning to their offices five days a week, unless the commute takes less than 15 minutes. Two thirds of respondents said they prefer a hybrid work model–split between office and home—by about 39 per cent.

COVID has had a huge impact on the way many companies conduct business, with many employers having the epiphany that a workforce can be trusted enough to remain highly engaged with their jobs while being productive, especially if a hybrid model becomes the norm.

Not surprisingly, 29 per cent of all Canadians said they would look for another job if they were expected to return to the office five days a week. This attitude was most clearly reflected among workers in the 25-to-44 age group. 

When it comes to commuting, 68 per cent of all respondents indicated that their preferred commute be no more than 30 minutes. About one quarter suggested that their commute should be no more than 15 minutes. 

These figures come about because Canadians have realized the impact long commutes have on their quality of life. Indeed, there’s a lot of perks with less commuting including more time with families, greater emphasis on health and exercise or trying local businesses for the first time. 

But it’s not only driving trends that have shifted. Purchasing trends have as well. 

Earlier this year the results of a Canadian Black Book survey indicated that three quarters of all Canadians were driving less. This figure was highest in Alberta where 84 per cent of all drivers said that they spent less time behind the wheel. On average, Canadians have cut their driving overall by about 50 per cent, the survey found. 

One outcome of this behavioural change is that there is now less urgency to purchase a new vehicle. Atlantic Canada topped the list at 80 per cent of regions who say that they won’t be purchasing a new car anytime in the near future.  

When asked if they intended to buy a new vehicle within the next two years, drivers in the 18-to-34 range clocked in at 51 per cent as most likely to cough up some of their hard-earned dollars for a new set of wheels.

Many Canadians however, aren’t rushing to purchase vehicles, and this includes EVs and PHEVs with only 30 per cent considering an alternative energy vehicle in the next five years. However, the next car 47 per cent intend to purchase would fall into this group. Breaking things down further by gender, men (36%) are more likely than women (24%) to buy an EV, while university grads are another demographic that show strong interest in EVs, clocking in at 41 per cent.

Interestingly, about 15% of all respondents have reported actually buying a car to avoid coming into contact with other riders on public transit. 

Another interesting factoid to emerge from these surveys is that 26% of all Canadians are more open to buying a car online (although 74% still prefer in person purchases.) Another piece of data that emerges is that Atlantic Canadians (30%) are the most likely demographic to purchase vehicles entirely online.

These are but a few of the indicators of change emerging out of the pandemic, but there can be no denying the impact that COVID has had on the attitudes of drivers or the cultural shift in attitudes towards driving, commuting and purchasing vehicles. It’ll be interesting to see where we actually go from here. 

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