|2013 Land Rover Range Rover|
The old Detroit adage was "you are what you drive." Actually much of the automotive industry, not just American automakers, have drummed this into people's heads for decades. I have heard people use this phrase with glee (when they have a car they just love) as well as with disdain (when they have a car they would love to drive off a cliff). Is it really true?
There are many stereotypes revolving around people who drive different types of vehicles. I have owned a variety of vehicles, and always notice with a little twist of humor that people treat me differently depending on the car I drive. For example, when I had my little Volvo S40 (which for those of you who don't know is a compact Swedish sedan) I would regularly get cut off by the "big truck crowd" or guys driving full-size pickups. I even had one cut me off on the freeway, slam on his breaks and then gun it so a cloud of diesel exhaust spewed all over my car as he waved a finger out his window. After my car was in a little fender bender and then had to take a trip to the body shop, I was given a rental full-size pickup truck to drive around. I immediately noticed the other full-size pickups on the road treated me like royalty, but a new group started to target me: middle-aged women in economy cars! I kid you not, I would have women in Civics, Mazda Proteges, Corollas, etc ride up so close behind the truck I could barely see the roof of the car in my rearview mirror, meanwhile in my side mirror I could see them yelling and making faces at the back of the truck. What I couldn't believe was that if I had slammed on the breaks, these women would have been pulverized by a vehicle that weighed at least twice as much as theirs.
When I drove a Japanese SUV I had people in American SUVs try to show off all the time, and while driving my Saab I would have BMWs try to race me and Lexus drivers cut me off constantly. Driving a minivan now, I have the lovely joy of women (yes, pretty much just women and not men) treating me like I am the scourge of the earth and shouldn't be allowed on the roads. I could go on, but I think you get the point.I think it's pretty safe to say quite a few people have bought into the belief that the vehicle makes the person.
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I would argue that a vehicle doesn't transform who you are. To an extent the vehicle does affect how you drive: I don't go nearly as fast in my current vehicle as I did in my Saab, and when I had an SUV I wouldn't hesitate to plow through deep water on the road. I would argue, though, that the person chooses the vehicle, and that different people gravitate to specific vehicles for a number of reasons. It's not always cut-and-dry like some try to pretend, but I do think that the type of vehicle you drive says a lot about you and the stage of life you're in.
Automotive industry marketers would agree with me. I often see automakers' profiles for buyers of different vehicle models. For example, once I saw Honda's for Accord drivers. I don't remember everything about the profile, but I do remember that they found the average Accord driver vacuums out his garage rather than sweeping it. While you can't say that everyone who drives X vehicle is exactly the same, you can say that most people who drive the same vehicle share some key traits. I do believe the list of similarities between drivers with the same vehicle grows tighter the more "niche" the vehicle is in the marketplace. For this reason, I think this is why there is such a strong Subaru culture or a similar group of people who drive Mazda Miatas. Meanwhile, you will find a less homogenous group of Camry drivers, although most Camry drivers do share some key traits (just not as many as Subaru Forrester drivers).
I could also launch into a big, deep discussion about vehicle customization and what it says about people. I wrote up a 60+ page paper (complete with photos) for a college class on this very subject, and trust me I could write a 500+ page book on it. But we'll leave it for another day, and maybe even for a future book.
Perhaps we should modify what we say about a car being an extension of a person. I guess we could always say "what you drive reflects who you are" but that just wouldn't be very catchy.