One of my favorite pictures of my uncle is him with his Kathy car. It’s a beautiful image, teenage Dave wearing a muscle shirt, leaning back against a bubblegum pink bug, with “Kathy” painted across the hood, in tribute to his high school sweetheart.
It’s pretty obvious what statement that car made.
Here in America, we love our cars. Other countries may be able to get by just fine with great public transit, but America is all about the independence and freedom of being alone on the open road… just you and your car.
We feel nostalgic about our first cars, we spend tons of money on auto expenses each year, and we obsess over the purchase of a new car, because it’s not just a tool to get you from one place to another… it’s a statement about who you are as a person.
Cars are Our Biggest Accessories
This is hard for someone like me to swallow. To me, what car you pick is mainly based on expenses, and picking a certain make or year is just a matter of saving on car expenses.
But think about it. What automatic judgments do you make of people based solely on their car? To me, a pimped-out red coupe with no muffler screams “please give me some attention!”
A demure Volvo or Honda proclaims a practical family man or woman. Giant trucks either say “I have important work to do on the farm” or “I’m trying to prove to you that I’m a man.”
Then there’s the eco-approach that we see more and more of now. All you have to do is look at how the lithium mining industry is booming to know that increasing numbers of people are putting priority of being compact and minimizing their carbon footprint.
What image are we trying to promote with that choice?
I used to think that I didn’t pay much attention to cars. I’ve never been one of those people to linger over vintage cars at a fair, or admire a poster of a Lamborghini. But when I finally bought my first car, I realized how many stereotypes that I’ve internalized about certain kinds of cars.
- Subarus belong to mountain climbers and lesbians
- Convertible sports cars are a sure sign of midlife crisis
- Only douchey guys drive Landrovers
- No one under age 60 drives a Cadillac
How Many of Our Stereotypes are Real?
The thing about car stereotypes is that they’re constantly reinforced through advertising. Each stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Subaru commercials, for example, appeal to outdoorsmen and adventurers.
And while they do have some functionality that supports that lifestyle (like their traction is stupendous, and the shape of them makes it really easy to, say, strap kayaks to the top, stick mountain bikes in the back, etc.) there’s nothing that says that they should have that market cornered.
But then people who want to associate with that sort of persona are immediately attracted to Subarus when they go car shopping.
A lot of it is determined by group demographics. Sometimes it’s because we like to hear a real testimonial from a friend about how a car is, sometimes it’s because we buy cars from other people in our social circle or community.
Oftentimes, though, it’s just because of tribe mentality. We pick certain cars to fit in with the people around us, in order to become the person we want to project. Sometimes we don’t even do it mentally, it’s all subconscious.
Cool Facts about Car Owners
If you’re wondering how many of our assumptions about cars are true, check out the study done by Strategic Vision. They survey thousands of car buyers each year to better understand the market for each major brand.
Here are some interesting facts that they gleaned:
- ⅔ of Buick owners are over 55
- 13% of Chevy owners have never used the internet
- 70% of Honda owners have a college degree, while only 35% of Chevy owners do
- Lexus owners are usually educated, settled down, and wealthy. Their median age is 56, and 75% are married
- The only discernible pattern of the Rolls Royce demographic is that they’re all wealthy.
How About You?
What kind of car do you drive? How did you make the decision about the make and model? What kinds of assumptions do you have about certain brands?
Category: Automobile Tips