Cars as Symbols of Wealth and Power


What cars stand for or symbolize in their owners’ minds can be very different from how others perceive those vehicles.

The classic example would be the Hummer. A large number of these were sold—not for off-road, work-truck use, but to make a statement about the driver’s testosterone level. Like NFL players, they were big, strong, powerful and overweight.

They were also heavy polluters, got DOT safety exemptions and an unfair tax deduction for their owners. They made a lot of other drivers angry.

One of our frequent commenters, panayoti, put some thoughts together (see comment #5 here) on why those who buy luxury SUVs (land barges) should be perfectly able to choose and drive what they want without getting dumped on.

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Three Land Barges: Infiniti QX56, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator

Infiniti QX56

The price of gas is rising to $5.00 and beyond, yet sales of large SUVs are up in the double digits.

In terms of increase, the Infiniti QX56 (above) has been leading the pack, with year-to-date sales up 29.6 percent! How do you figure that? It is easily the ugliest new car on the road; it’s a “dressed-up truck…ultimately assembled from Nissan’s mainline parts bin”; it handles like a pig and costs $75,000 as tested. The new Toyota Land Cruiser starts at $78,000.

The continued popularity of luxury SUVs never ceases to amaze. Sales of big trucks and SUVs were up about 15 percent in February, so the rising cost of gas doesn’t seem to be a factor.

The major reason, in my opinion: “The wealthiest 20% of Americans account for the major share of new vehicle spending, and are less affected by gas prices.” There is not only pent-up demand for these big cars; they are part of the American dream. They symbolize power and wealth. $5.00 gas may end the party for these cars, but don’t bet on it.

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