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February 22, 2016

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Home » Business » Autotalk Special

You are what you drive? Well, sometimes that’s true, study finds

In daily Chinese life, mian zi, or “face,” has long dictated social customs.

Rooted in rural areas where everyone knows everyone, it means remaining self-conscious of one’s image in the eyes of others and taking the opinions of others as an important reference point for self-assessment.

Even while trying to maintain a low profile in today’s China, the wealthy just have to buy an expensive car to prove themselves to others, said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the Hurun Report, which tracks the nation’s rich.

The decision on which premium car to buy in this “face consumption” society still relies on some collective consciousness. Different vehicle brands have developed stereotypical images about which social class they fit, whether true or not.

The disparity between public image and customers’ own judgment is especially evident in big cities, where the influx of “outsiders” influences thinking about which cars signify what status. Hurun Report once compiled a comprehensive profile of China’s luxury car customers in tier-1 and tier-2 cities, based on what they think and what others think of them.

Regardless of what car they drive, these owners were all found to be self-confident, stubborn and enthusiastic.

But apart from that, the Hurun Report found some disparities between the public stereotype of specific luxury car owners and how the owners think of themselves.

Mercedes Benz owners are viewed as entrepreneurial, cultivated and successful, which is pretty much in line with how their owners see themselves.

BMW owners describe themselves as owners of small and medium-sized businesses or senior managers in multinational companies. They say they have a positive attitude and believe in living life to the fullest while being relatively discreet. That’s not quite the public stereotype of BMW owners as nouveau riche, materialistic and show-offs.

Land Rover owners are considered to be nouveau riche, second-generation wealth and show-offs, while Land Rover owners consider themselves to be professional, senior managers and self-made people.

Volvo owners are viewed by the public as valuable members of society, low-key, morally upstanding and family-oriented. Of the eight car brands surveyed, Volvo car owners came closest to their image. Additionally, they consider themselves to be returnees.

Audi owners are viewed as government officials, mature and experienced. This image is the most defined in all the eight brands. Audi owners consider themselves to be white-collar workers with a positive attitude toward life and a zeal to live life to the fullest.

Cadillac owners have the image of mature and successful white-collar workers. The owners consider themselves to be senior managers in multinationals.

Infiniti owners have the public image of second-generation rich, film stars and highly active people, while Infiniti owners view themselves as white-collar workers.

Lexus owners don’t fall into any distinctive public stereotype, while Lexus owners consider themselves to be white-collar workers, professionals and senior managers in state-owned enterprises.


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