A new study suggests that cars are more than just a transport device, they are a symbol of social class.
The study by the US-based Center for Automotive Research, titled The Social Class of Cars, is the first to examine how cars are viewed in a diverse population.
Its results show that the car has been seen as a symbol for both the affluent and the poor.
The most common way of viewing cars is through their utilitarian appearance, said Dr Yves Chabrol, who led the research project.
The study analysed 1,871 images of vehicles from a range of industries, ranging from the luxury brand Mercedes to the most popular brands of cars, including BMW and Lexus.
“Our findings show that car owners are generally happy with their car.
They want to see it be as functional as possible, with little or no technology added, and in good condition,” he said.
The findings reveal that the wealthy are more likely to see their cars as functional and in very good condition.
“When asked how they would like their car to be in five years time, the affluent respondents would prefer to see an updated version with a lot of technology, but a lower price tag,” Chabror said.
“But they also want to have an older model with more safety features.”
While the luxury brands dominate the top five most-viewed images of cars in the study, the middle-class have a slightly higher number of views.
“This suggests that people of middle-income families are more interested in the appearance of their cars and less interested in technology,” said Chabral.
“These results are based on data from a small sample of US households, so the generalizability is limited.”
“The cars of the middle class have more utilitarian looks and are less likely to feature advanced technology, so we can’t rule out that these are a reflection of the wealth of the household,” he added.
The research is being published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.