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.
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.
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.
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.
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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