Keith Bradsher explores an interesting and so far overlooked aspect of Our Modern World in a 7.18.00 article for the New York Times: the deeper psychology of minivan owners versus owners of sport utility vehicles. He writes:
“...A growing body of research by automakers is finding that buyers of these two kinds of vehicles are very different psychologically. Sport utility buyers tend to be more restless, more sybaritic, less social people who are "self-oriented," to use the automakers' words, and who have strong conscious or subconscious fears of crime. Minivan buyers tend to be more self-confident and more "other-oriented" -- more involved with family, friends and their communities.”
Anyone who has been to Seattle lately, or indeed, to many other American cities, has doubtless noticed the growing proliferation of sport utility vehicles clogging up the roads recently, and has probably been cut off by at least three. While I am always loathe to berate people for being selfish—i.e., for wanting to obtain and enjoy wealth, or for working for themselves as opposed to others—I sometimes cannot help sneering in disbelief when I see these people. It’s 1/4 funny, 3/4 inane that so many city-dwellers who have never left the city would choose to drive these large, clunky, gas-guzzling, “off-road” vehicles. My goodness! Yes, my own father owns an Explorer, but sweet mother of mercy! At least he drives over to Eastern Washington and elsewhere on occasion and actually uses it!

Anyway, Bradsher’s article brings up some interesting points. Thomas Elliott, Honda's executive vice president for North American auto operations, says that when people go for SUV’s over minivans, they tend to be buying image over the function. With minivan buyers, he claims it is the other way around. There is also the sex drive to be considered. Whether you like it or not, a minivan screams, “I am married and have children.” SUV’s are more readily associated with aggression, hence with violence, and hence with sex. Does this mean that if your husband buys a sport ute, he’s cheating? If you’re single, will buying a minivan dash your chances of finding a mate?

Of course, studies on consumer psychology will be useful chiefly to automakers looking to market their product. I’ll be expecting more SUV ads with taglines like “So Ultimately VICIOUS!!” or the like. (“Sexed Up Vehicles”?) Ugh. Wow.