Do people choose cars that make them look powerful? Some do

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This week we bring you this classic G. George Ostrom column from 2005...

Do you believe people drive cars, which reveal their individual personalities and character? This week’s Parade magazine has an article that says so. Among other things, it states “ . . . 25 percent of people choose cars that make them feel powerful. They go for the big engines, the big tires.”

Colors, accessories and origins also send signals. For example, drivers with red Corvettes are different from those who opt for a power color like black.

“Cars are the ultimate status symbol,” according to BJ Gallagher who is a consultant to automotive businesses. A psychologist-analyst for auto trends claims, “ . . . your car is the best way of advertising who you are and how well you’re doing. Cars are an extension of what we want to be ... whether that’s successful or just different.”

Right after reading that article, I glanced through the new Readers Digest where a quiz asked which of four pictured luxury cars costs the most. The answer was a low slung red sports Ferrari-Espo that cost $652,000.

That is when I went out to the garage and sat staring at my fourteen year old chromeless, gray Subaru station wagon that has dents in the rear where I backed into a van full of Japanese tourists. Looked at the broken sun visor that is held up by four strips of duct tape, then noticed the mileage was sitting on 146,860.

Back in the house I asked Iris if she thought others judge a person by the kind of vehicle they drive. She said, “Some people do and some people don’t; however when I worked at State Farm we cautioned those customers who drove sports cars, especially red ones, that insurance statistics show they are more likely to drive fast and have accidents so law enforcement really watches them.”

“Did you say anything to older people who bought little gray station wagons?

“Not usually. ‘George, I know what you’re thinking and I don’t feel you really need a new car. You drive a lot but that Subaru is running fine, gets high gasoline mileage, and was paid for many years ago. You’ve accomplished many things so have nothing to prove to anyone, and as far as I know, you quit chasing girls 48 years ago. If those dents and the sun visor are bothering you, we could get them fixed.’”

“Those aren’t real problems Honey, but I don’t think that car properly represents my true rugged and daring personality, besides . . . the Parade article says, ‘At any age or life stage, automotive messaging is natural, normal, and healthy.’”

“George, that article was written by a person who only interviewed people who have a direct connection to the automobile industry where they earn their living. You should not be influenced by those kinds of biased opinions.”

We continued discussing this subject for a while and I felt it was pretty much a draw, until Iris felt it necessary to bring up the fact that for 20 years I owned Cadillacs, “including a low slung red Eldorado.”

If you see me driving down the street in my little gray Legacy and I’m sitting tall with my chin proudly jutting out, it is because I’m pretending it is a big red Cadillac. OK?

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