Cars are, as always, a reflection of our personality, whether it’s our indifference to automotive glory on one hand, or our need to drive a status symbol to compensate for other failings, on the other.
Sometimes, they’re just necessities to get us more or less safely from point A to point b.
Sometimes, they are much, much more.
Now, remember all those things you say out loud or at least thought about the driver of that luxury car that cut you off, and then you regretted your outburst after you had a chance to cool down? Well, don’t, because there is a science behind your feelings.
A new study by the University of Helsinki finds that many owners of high-status luxury cars are actually, in the study’s own words, “assholes”.
The study surveyed nearly 2,000 Finnish car owners and analyzed their personality types.
“The answers were unambiguous: self-centered men who are argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic are much more likely to own a high-status car such as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes,” the researchers wrote.
However, the study found no connection between female self-centeredness and luxury cars.
Professor of social psychology at the Helsinki University and the lead researcher, Jan-Erik Lönnqvist, explained that the drivers “most likely to run a red light, not give way to pedestrians and generally drive recklessly and too fast were often the ones driving fast German cars.”
The study is suggesting quite simply what we really all know: Wealth has a corrupting effect on people and a snowball effect of high-status consumption and unethical behavior in certain situations, many of them--it would seem--behind the wheel.
People with money see themselves as superior, and therefore are “keen to display it to others,” Lonnqvist said.
But then, consider that many politicians, CEO’s and government agencies are also driving luxury cars.
Does the University of Helsinki’s findings apply to them as well?
On the other side, there are numerous other studies profiling the psychology of owners of a particular type of car and their habits.
For instance, the bigger and flashier the car, the weaker the owner’s sense of self-worth. Drivers of cherry red sports cars like to take financial risks, so the findings suggest, among other similar variations on the car-as-self-esteem thesis.
However, what we are experiencing with BMW and Audi drivers now, might shift to electric cars in the future. An EV, in many instances, is already something of a status symbol, whereas SUVs and their high emissions are gradually losing their cool.
For now, though, the vast majority of Americans aren’t in the market for electric cars, which represented only 1.4% of total vehicle sales in 2018.
But take Tesla, for instance. If anything is an emerging status symbol it is this.
The average household income of a Tesla Model X owner is just under $150,000 a year, compared to the median household income in the United States of $63,000.
But rest assured: If a Tesla cuts you off on the road in the future, it will likely be a male driver behind the wheel. Some surveys show that Tesla is having a hard time appealing to women because women tend to be more practical when it comes to cars.
It does make one wonder what status-symbol-craving, low-self-esteem men will do in the future when it’s all about ride-sharing--even for people who can afford a nice car. When that happens, it’ll have to be an over-the-top luxury version of Uber to maintain everyone’s self-worth.
By David Craggen for Safehaven.com
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