Research in the US has shown that buyers of S.U.V.s and minvans think very differently.* Not suprisingly therefore, there is huge appeal for automakers to read the minds of the market to better target their desired group and reel them into the showroom. Hence, big money is being spent on research into consumer psychology, the results of which are then fed through to design and advertising departments.
DaimlerChrysler‘s market research team found that sports utility buyers tend to have a desire to “feel sexy” and therefore often to opt for smoked windows to maintain a sense of mystique.* A writer for commuter.typepad.com also echoes this idea by saying that S.U.V.s can be used to attract attention from the opposite sex.
Researh by Honda’ also found sport utility buyers to place huge emphasis on the external appearance of their vehicle in contrast to minivan buyers who are more concerned with the interior features.
On a safety note, marketing teams have tried to portray S.U.V.s as indestuctible robust vehicles, because as Dr. Clotaire Rapaille’s psychology studies have revealed, it is vehicle size which makes people feel safer, not actually the scientifically tested safety features.**
Driver behaviour has also been found to coincide with the type of vehicle being driven, as a higher proportion of sport utility drivers did not feel that courtesy was important whilst out on the road (Source: Auto Pacific Inc.).
Looking at the wider picture- community life- Strategic Vision have discovered minivan buyers to be more likely to be ‘involved’ in their communities and to take part in volunteer work (see blog entry: Are long commutes eroding our social networks? July 17th) On the other hand, sport utility buyers have been found to concern themselves more with going to the gym or out for a top-notch meal in their free-time.
* The New York Times July 17th 2000
** http://commuter.typepad.com July 2007