Face Facts: People Prefer Mean-Looking Cars

Car buyers attach human traits to vehicles, research shows

By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 6, 2008 4:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – Friendly is out and angry is in—for cars, at least. When people look at cars, they tend to see human faces and characteristics, LiveScience reports. A new study found that "power" traits such as dominant, masculine, and angry—think BMW's 5 Series—top the list. And the results have the attention of automakers desperate to know more about how people pick cars.

"When investing in a new passenger car, you're talking about billions," said the head of the group that performed the study. "If you get the wrong styling, you get problems." In the study, a group of men and women looked at 38 cars—no SUVs—and rated them on traits related to emotions and personality. Then they picked what they liked: low, wide and masculine.

The Toyota Prius doesn't have the "power" traits many buyers find desirable.   (AP Photo)
High "power" cars like the BMW 5 Series tend to be lower or wider and have slit-like or angled headlights.   (AP Photo/BMW)
The Toyota Prius doesn't have the "power" traits many buyers find desirable.   (AP Photo)
The BMW 5 series is high on "power" traits, researchers find.   (BMWUSA.com)
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You have to ask people, and they have to reflect on them. We wanted to go to more subconscious level. - Sonja Windhager, anthropologist
involved in the study

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