Here’s Why People Don’t Like Audi, BMW and Mercedes Drivers

Can you tell a lot about someone’s personality by the car they drive? Most of us have stereotypical attitudes towards Mercedes, Audi and BMW drivers. But new research suggests it might be more than mere prejudice…

Popular Stereotypes 

Who can honestly say that they’ve never explained someone’s driving behaviour via the brand of car they’re in? It’s likely that, if you have (be honest, you have), it’s concerned someone in a German ‘executive’ car. Think Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The idea that drivers of these cars are negligent and obnoxious is hardly a niche one; it’s a long-established trope, attracting attention from the automotive industry, media and even police forces.

But where exactly does the stereotype come from and does it have any basis within reality? Well, the first thing to consider if the fact that these attitudes aren’t exclusive to the UK. Which is why Finnish researchers at Helsinki University decided to find out where the stereotype comes from once and for all…

‘Why Do They Often Seem To Drive Like Idiots?’ 

No, that’s not a headline from a Red top newspaper. That’s the line of enquiry pursued by the boffins in Helsinki. They wanted to consider two areas of investigtion; whether the cars themselves caused negative behaviour or, alternatively, whether they simply attracted bad drivers. Their research seems to shed some answers.

Jan-Erik Lönnqvist, professor of social psychology has personally experienced the motoring of Audi, BMW and Mercedes drivers. He said, “I had noticed that the ones 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”. Previous research has already established a link between breaking traffic regulations and owning an expensive car. Traditionally, this has been explained by the notion that wealth has ‘a corrupting influence’ on human behaviour; resulting in high-status purchases and unethical behaviour.

To gain some answers, Lönnqvist’s team surveyed 1,892 Finnish drivers. It involved questions concerning wealth, consumer habits and personality traits. These were analysed using a ‘Five-Factor Model’ that considers openness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, extraversion and agreeableness. The answers, it seems, were unambiguous.

‘Self-Centred Men’

According to Lönnqvist, ‘self-centred men who are argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic’ are more likely to own a Mercedes, Audi or BMW. He said, “these personality traits explain the desire to own high-status products, and the same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others”.

He accepted that it’s a truism that the wealthy are more likely to own expensive cars. But he also noted the role of ‘negative’ personality traits. He said, “we also found that those whose personality was deemed more disagreeable were more drawn to high-status cars. These are people who often see themselves as superior and are keen to display this to others”.

But it’s not all bad news for lovers of German executive cars. The research also found that conscientious people were drawn to the brands. People with this personality type are often ambitious, organised and respectable; they regard taking care of themselves as important as performing well at work. As Lönnqvist explained, “the link is presumably explained by the importance they attach to high quality. All makes of car have a specific image, and by driving a reliable car they are sending out the message that they themselves are reliable”.

It’s not understood precisely why self-centredness play less of a role amongst female drivers. The researchers at Helsinki have speculated that, for women, cars just don’t have as much significance as status symbols.

Further Lines Of Enquiry 

Few research projects have, at least thus far, made use of the Five-Factor Model. Lönnqvist believes the method can shed light on consumer behaviour. He said, “it would be great if consumers had other, sustainable ways of showing their status rather than the superficial consumption of luxury goods that often has negative consequences”. He continued, “we are already seeing that driving an electric car is becoming something of a status symbol, whereas SUVs with their high emissions are no longer considered as cool”.

So, there you have it. Self-centred men are drawn to Audi, Mercedes and BMW models. Why? They act as status-symbols, a means of implying their superiority and exemption from the rules of the road. But not everyone interested in them is a ‘bad’ person. In fact, for some people, taking to these brands is a way of saying ‘I look after myself and take my responsibilities seriously’.

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