You Are What You Drive, Maybe

Chicken Cadillac

Go to Google, enter “you are what you drive,” and you’ll get some 1,590,000,000 results. Which probably shows just how valid such pairings of cars with people are.

I take my cue from the honorable (generally so, though not in his role as TV critic yesterday) tgriffith’s piece today pairing rich people with the often surprising cars they drive. As the Yahoo survey tells us, sometimes the shoe fits, and sometimes it doesn’t.

There is a lot of misinformation out there on the Web about who drives, or should drive, what. The only reason we care about such stuff is to make inferences about the personalities of the owners. So we look at their big-ticket items like houses and cars. If we really wanted to know more about rich people, we’d look at the offices they work in (or their phone logs), for instance.

It’s a big guessing game, and it’s amusing. Derek Kreindler of TTAC showed a photo of a used Bentley Arnage and a newish Mustang parked in front of a modest house in Toronto. He then speculated that the owners were likely not wealthy or “to the manor born.” I like commenter McGilligan’s remark: “Or it’s owned by the ‘manor born’ landlord surveying his rental property holdings.”

Your car, Kreindler says, doesn’t really define your identity, whereas “deeds or relationships” do. No kidding? Who made those the criteria? Carlos Slim, richest man in the world, has done some good things for Mexico, but his telecom monopoly is not one of them.

Liza Barth of Consumer News was eager to tell us how she took on a different personality when driving test cars. In a premium sedan,

a feeling of confidence came over me. The ride was quite smooth, like I was gliding over the road. The seats cradled me in comfort. I felt very fancy—like a wealthy executive. This car definitely attracts attention. I noticed other drivers checking me out, probably to see who was driving such an expensive car.

280 SL and chickYou hear that latter comment a lot, especially from drivers of high-end sports cars. A firm called Strategic Vision did a survey in March that reported 69 percent of new convertible buyers were Republican. Democrats (37 percent) bought vans or wagons; their top choice car was the Honda Civic Hybrid. Not too many surprises here.

Clothes and jewelry are probably much better guides to the “inner person” than such ambiguous indicators as cars. People buy cars for all kinds of reasons, and making inferences from such is a risky thing. The car you drove in high school is probably not the car you would want to drive today.

Is car marketing simply the “science” of getting people to buy the cars that will make them look and feel good?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Bentley Arnage
Used Ford Mustang
Used Honda Civic

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  1. Randy
    May 4th, 2012 at 20:27 | #1

    I think much of what “marketing” has developed into is the science of helping soul-less define their self worth and identity by what they buy and own. Those “democrats” you mention buy minivans and wagons because they are the most practical solution for their transporation problems. “Republicans” buy convertibles in large numbers because they lack character and need to project self worth to stangers as a function of property.

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