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BMW and Audi drivers more selfish than others, study finds

A Finnish researcher was surprised to learn that luxury brands also attract conscientious types.

NET-Matkojen linja-auto, jonka kanssa on kolaroinut musta farmarimallinen BMW.
File photo of traffic accident between a city bus and a BMW car - not related to story. Image: Juha Peltoperä / Yle

Many Audi and BMW owners really are more aggressive than other drivers on the road, according to new research from the University of Helsinki. On the other hand, the same study found that conscientious drivers also buy high-status vehicles.

Earlier research has already proven that drivers behind the wheels of expensive cars don't follow the rules of the road as often as their cheaper vehicle-driving counterparts. In 2018, Yle crunched the numbers and found that BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz drivers racked up the highest number of speeding tickets in the previous year.

A new study on the topic, headed up by social psychology professor Jan-Erik Lönnqvist, examined whether certain types of people drawn to luxury brand vehicles actually have an increased tendency to break traffic laws.

The researcher queried 1,900 car owners about their driving and consumption habits as well as their personality traits. Lönnqvist's study is titled: "Not only assholes drive Mercedes. Besides disagreeable men, also conscientious people drive high‐status cars".

Lönnqvist said the study's results were incontrovertible: self-centred males with fierce, irreverent, unsympathetic and unpatriotic personality traits were much more likely to own high-end vehicle brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz.

"These personality traits explain the desire to own high-status products, and the same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others," Lönnqvist said in a statement.

He noted that while wealthy people have the money needed in order to buy high-status products, there were other motivations at play.

Conscientious people seek out quality

"But we also found that those whose personality was deemed more disagreeable were more drawn to high-status cars. These are people who often see themselves as superior and are keen to display this to others," he explained.

Lönnqvist said he decided to research the topic after noticing that drivers of luxury cars tended to ignore traffic rules more than others.

"I noticed that the ones most likely to run a red light, not give way to pedestrians and generally drive recklessly and too fast were often the ones driving fast German cars," he said.

However, Lönnqvist said he was surprised his research also found that other types of personalities are drawn to high-end vehicles - the conscientious. He described this group as talented, reliable, well-organised people who are thriving at their careers.

"The link is presumably explained by the importance they attach to high quality. All makes of car have a specific image, and by driving a reliable car they are sending out the message that they themselves are reliable," the professor reasoned.

Another notable finding in the study was that the conscientious personality type who drove top shelf vehicles included both men and women, while the drivers of fancy cars who had self-centred personality traits were exclusively male.

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