Tuesday, October 16, 2007

SUV buyers

Who are SUV buyers? Based on large scale market surveys performed yearly for the automobile industry, Keith Bradsher describes them as having little self-confidence and being conceited. They are often insecure about their marriage and uncomfortable with parenthood. They often lack assurance in their driving abilities. They are above all “self-centered” and “self-absorbed”, with little interest for their neighbours and communities (K. Bradsher, High and Mighty, SUVs – The world’s most dangerous vehicles and how they got that way, New York, Public Affairs, 2002, p. 101.)

It would thus be the survival instinct and expects for maximum safety without consideration for consequences to others that drive people to prefer SUVs, especially the Hummer whose military origin confers a particularly robust image. The vehicle’s disproportionate size, particularly in the case of the Hummer H2, also allows those driving it to literally and figuratively dominate the road. Now, in « Consommation et luxe, La voie de l’excès et de l’illusion » (Consumption and luxury, The way to excess and illusion - in libraries November 13, in French only for the time being) I mention the fact that one finds in luxury a desire to dominate others, making the Hummer an object of power.

Advertising for the Hummer contributes to create this feeling of domination by putting greater emphasis on the vehicle’s warrior image. Upon entering the Hummer’s home page (Hummer’s English version of the Canadian Web site, consulted August 15 2007), you are presented with a cloud of black smoke very suggestive of a battlefield, behind which hides the new Hummer H3 Limited Edition, and the slogan “Move in for the thrill”; this is a very aggressive pun on the expression “Move in for the kill” , which implies killing an enemy. Another advertising line “48 units are now standing by” reinforces the vehicle’s militaristic image. Advertising being a major cultural influence, should one be surprised to occasionally meet a somewhat aggressive Hummer driver? In such a case, Rapaille may be right; the reptilian brain dominates, wild instinct supersedes reason and emotions.

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