By on June 6, 2010

Earlier this week on my blog I wrote about narcissism – specifically of whether or not bloggers are by nature narcissistic and if gender makes a difference in that judgment. As I linked in that entry, Justine Musk, soon-to-be ex of Tesla head Elon Musk, had some interesting ruminations on the subject if you care to read it.

Anyway, between Musk’s thoughts, another run-in with an Unnecessary Truck and this awful situation in the Gulf, self-involved tendencies have been weighing heavily on my mind of late. Being so selfish has certainly led to that disaster, but I also don’t think you can argue with the fact that many of our choices as consumers are driven not by necessity, but by pure narcissism.

Take that aforementioned Unnecessary Truck, for example. To reiterate, I am not talking about pickups driven for legitimate professional purposes, or that are frequently used to haul boats and dirt bikes and trailers and the like. I mean the ones that are purchased for no other reason than to fuel an already overinflated ego. After all, why else would you drive something so heavy, inefficient and large, put obnoxious and borderline obscene stickers all over it, then park it across three spaces? Because you crave attention. Because it’s all about you.

Or the very wealthy man who buys a very rare, extraordinarily expensive supercar and never takes it on the track, but instead merely drives it back and forth to his favorite nightspot. The sole purpose it to be seen, to get laid, to make people turn their heads, to wonder who you are and what you did to make so much extra cash that you can afford this million dollar Bugatti Veyron (the answer to which is more likely than not porn or drugs). A car like that was born for the high speeds you can really only get on a track, and if you’re not going to drive the hell out of it why bother? Of course – narcissism.

And of course this phenomenon extends to the new “green” world of hybrids. Mindset Media did a study a couple of years ago to develop a psychological profile of the average hybrid driver: better educated, wealthier, highly creative, more liberal and a bit older than the average car owner. There is also a definite subset that buys a hybrid in large part because they want to be seen as the type that drives a hybrid, regardless of whether or not they even recycle at home. While I’ll agree that every little bit helps, if you’re really that serious about saving the environment then you should be powering your toaster with a stationary bike a la Ed Begley Jr.

What does your car say about you?

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at http://doyoucomewiththecar.blogspot.com. And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at Thetruthaboutcars.com

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45 Comments on “The Booth Babe Chronicles: Narcissism And You: An Automotive Primer...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    What does your car say about you?

    That I am awesome.

  • avatar
    1981.911.SC

    You tell me…What does a 1981 911 SC say about me? Does it say I like to revive a car left to die in a barn? Does it say I like having my wife cry because it wouldn’t even roll off of the trailer when I brought it home? Does it say I like to lay underneath it with rust and dust and grime falling in my face while I struggle with the exhaust headers? Does it say I like the smell of burnt oil. Does it say I like to cuss up a blue streak as I strip the fittings on the leaking brake lines. Does it say I like to sound of crunching when I shift too fast into 2nd gear? Does it say Pelican Parts is my HERO? Does it say I like snickering to myself when somebody looks at it admiringly? Does it say I loved Wilkinson’s book, The Gold Plated Porsche, but that the book made my wife cry again? I just don’t know what it says about me……

    • 0 avatar
      thats one fast cat

      Har Har Har – I’m in the same boat with my P-car. well said.

    • 0 avatar
      philipwitak

      i think my automotive choices confirm that i prefer cars which are nimble, responsive and FUN TO DRIVE – and get fairly good gas milage to boot.

      i drive a 2007 cayman and a 1997 boxster.

      but if anyone really wants useful insight into who i am, suggest they visit my website. witakwebfolio.com

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Good question. I hope my car would say nothing about me. In fact I’ve never heard it say anything about me since I got it.

    Now why did I get my cars?

    1) Profit (Or perhaps the ego associated with said profit)

    2) Fuel Economy (2001 Insight for me, 2003 Civic Hybrid for the wife. These are my two ‘keepers’.)

    3) Haul Stuff (Dodge Ram 2500 driven a couple thousand miles a year)

    I love cars. I just don’t like to own them. After owning a thousand or so you just see them as assets with constant negative cash flow so long as you keep them.

    Guess that makes me a tightwad.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I actually expected to see girls racing muscle cars in the video.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… let’s see. A 2004 F150 with an aftermarket flatbed to replace the bed damaged to the tune of about $2000 dollars by an elderly neighbor who forgot to set her parking brake. A vehicle that I bought in 2006 with 68,000 miles on it with the intention of working it like a dog to the tune of a few thousands miles a year till gasoline becomes illegal, a 150cc scooter that gets me around town to the tune of 60mpg, use of my girlfriends Vibe for carpool commuting, and now I’m seeking a low mileage luxury sedan with a trunk big enough for a few sets of golf clubs. Let the psychoanalysis begin!

  • avatar
    IGB

    If a car is helping you get laid, then that car is as much of a tool as the truck being used to haul cargo. A male buying that car is no longer a narcissistic act in and of itself any more than a contractor buying a hammer or a programmer buying a computer.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    I have a Plymouth Neon. What that says about me: I cannot afford a Veyron.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      I drove the far superior Dodge Neon for 10 years. At first it said “Hi”, but then mostly it said “take me to the mechanic.” And then one day it said nothing at all.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I drove a neon for years and years(12 or so, will never part with it) and replaced it in daily-driving with a PT wagon about a year ago.

      The neon always said to me that I valued size, potency and aplomb more than a fancy badge, trims or rear drive. It had Integra/Mustang/Celica power with better-than-Escort economy and was absolutely trouble-free apart from some power optioning going south about 150k miles into ownership. The a/c still worked when the(original)timing belt snapped at 170k miles.

      Today, the neon(leon jr.) says: “I’m a survivor, and I’m punk as fuck.” Quite the departure from his cutesy(purple coupe, ya’ll) origins.

  • avatar
    schwerglas

    well I dont think a man (me) owning a miata is for narcissists reasons , pure enjoyment … on top of my 03 protoge5 , 87 sivlerado , 64 buick skylark sportwagon and 78 honda hawk motorcycle …. nah no narcissism here

  • avatar
    Syke

    Agreeing that one’s garage is one’s personal narcissism (and I do agree), then mine has:

    1987 Porsche 924S (the best sports car I could get on my under $6000 budget), 1996 S-10 pickup (the hauler and general 4-wheeled transportation), 1998 Harley Springer Softail with “support your local Outlaws” stickers on the oil tank (and yes, I’ve flown colors, ridden with 1%ers, and only dropped out of the life after causing a bit of trouble with a chapter of Hell’s Angels), 1995 Triumph Trident, 3-bag Givi setup and 102K on the clock (I like to ride), 1969 Triumph Bonneville cafe racer (I’m a Rocker and have been one since I was 14), 150cc Qingqi scooter (my main commuter as long as the weather allows), 1969 Honda Super 90 (the wife’s, it was her college bike) . . . . . . and 2 mountain and 9 road racing and touring bicycles, anything from a ’64 Raleigh to an ’06 Trek.

    Which I believe makes me an effete yuppie, knuckle-dragging scooter trash, environmentalist sympathizer, living-in-the-past-Britophile. As well as physically very healthy for 60 years old.

    I think the above combination is best described as schizoid. It’s a fun way to live.

  • avatar
    Monty

    “What does your car say about you?”

    My 2001 Sierra strippo regular cab long box? The truck that I’ve driven a total of 23,000 kms (an average of 2,350 miles per annum) in the past six years? The same truck that four different families make use of virtually every single weekend? The truck that achieves almost 30 mpg if driven carefully? The truck that I paid $1800.00 cash for, and then drove it with dealer plates for 22 months, thereby negating the cash expense?

    It says I’m thrifty, cheap, and know how to stretch my money. It also says that my immediate family is connected in a communal way, because we all use the truck for various reasons, and several of us ride bicycles in lieu of a car.

    I shop at the Habitat For Humanity Re-Fit store for a lot of what I use in renos and repairs around my house. For example, instead of ripping out all of the 50 year old baseboard so that it all matched throughout, I would look for more of it every time we went to the Re-Fit store. I also never throw anything out without taking it to the Re-Fit Store first to see if it is needed.

    Does the vehicle we drive make us narcissistic? No, I don’t think so. I think you can tell narcissistic people by what they drive, as per your examples above, but I don’t do what I do for my appearance to other people, but so I can sleep at night.

    And even if some guy buys a Veyron, only to drive it to the clubs at night, that is his right. If the U.S. had a fuel tax, and taxed vehicles on an sliding scale relative to fuel efficiency, would that stop somebody like you complaining about what other people drive? Probably not, and that says a lot about you.

  • avatar

    my car says that i want you to covet my car…

    i am totally narcissistic, and like Tony Stark I admit it.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    VW GTI – says I like to drive, and I’m less concerned with the “idiosyncrasies” of owning a VW.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee – says I like a place to put my family and a vehicle that can go on the beach without getting stuck.

    -ted

  • avatar
    obbop

    “What does your car say about you?”

    Nuthin’

    But, if others were to attempt to classify my persona/psyche due to my possessing a long-bed Chevy 4×4 pick-em-up truck they would be close to the mark if they interpret said possession as indicative of one who is ready to depart “normal” living arrangements and use the truck as a form of domicile.

  • avatar

    Although there are plenty of self-absorbed people in this world, using a material object to project wealth, intelligence, taste, environmental consciousness and/or obtain genetic material is not necessarily narcissism (in the sense of elitism or an insensitivity to the plight of others). In fact, it’s common sense.

    • 0 avatar
      sardaukar

      Sure. And there are plenty of other material objects one can get which may (or may not, as you say) reflect the owners’ narcissistic tendencies. I don’t buy clothes from trendy shops at the mall (although I’m happy to hit up their outlet stores). I don’t wear a fancy watch – the cheapies from Target keep time just as well, and I don’t have to file an insurance claim when I splash used motor oil on one, or crud up the band with sawdust from my shop. This is not to say that I don’t have any nice things, though. I was brought up to believe that if you pay a premium for high quality products, you are less likely to be disappointed by them. I bought the best flat screen TV I could afford, because I don’t want to have to buy another one in a couple of years. So it goes with cars.

      Another consideration is that, for many Americans, automobiles possess an emotional value that may far outstrip their blue book valuations. It’s not narcissism to drive a sexy, sporty car simply because it makes you happy to do so. To me, this may in fact be the best reason to drive one.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Robert, so philosophical. Exactly the words I’d expect from someon who drives a Porsche maybe?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I own three cars and my wife has one. They are rather diverse relative to each other, except for two items. One – all of them have had significant suspension upgrades, even the 18 year old station car, and two – all are rust and dent free and they are immaculate inside and out. So, I guess they say I’m a hoon and AR.

    I would venture to bet that many cars are owned by people who obtained them because it was cheap, a hand-me-down, a gift, etc. Many of those owners would not have purchased their rides under normal circumstances so I don’t know if the vehicle itself is such a good indicator of attitude. More important than what it is , is how it is. Dirty, dented, a million stickers, all say a lot about the person. During my dating days, a quick inspection of the girl’s ride told me a lot about what to expect. Someone with a relatively new car that was always dirty or sporting a 10 month old dent that’s never going to be repaired says a lot about it’s owner and would tell me to run for the hills, even if she was sporting a six pack and a killer set of guns…

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    2005 Scion xB. What it says is that one can’t buy a decent Volvo 245 anymore, and this is almost as boxy and useful.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniorMint

      Come on, now, there’s no more attention-whorish car than the first-gen xB’s. :) I should know…I drive one.

      Actually, those were very polarizing at first.

      Personally, I belong in the “PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEE!” camp, who bought one specifically because, not despite, the fact that people shielded their eyes looking at it.

      I guess you’re in the alternative, which is the “I just don’t give a damn” category. :p

  • avatar
    mythicalprogrammer

    What’s wrong with narcissism? Unless you’re on the extreme side, I don’t see narcissism hurting anyone.

    It’s more of a jealous kind of mentality, if someone bought a Prius for the image then so what? There are ricers out there and mid life crisis men buying vette. People do that with exotic cars anyway. They ain’t hurting anyone.

    Wanting to project an image through possessions is nothing new. People do it with their houses.

    Everyone have some varying degree of narcissism and it’s healthy. If you can’t love yourself then you’re lacking confident which means you’re going to find it very hard to get laid.

    Oh, I have a 2003 c230 kompressor with buncha stuffed pandas on the dash board, one of them is directly from the Chinese Olympic ^______^. Have an alumni UC license plate ^_____^. Guess, I hump pandas and go to panda school.

  • avatar

    Along with trees, rocks and the odd chipmunk or squirrel, my car speaks to me.

    And my car and I are both having a good ole’ ROFLcopter at a model accusing others of being narcissists.
    Passing Psych101 (or 3rd grade) and trying the old “I know your are but what am I”-defense hasn’t read this sadly funny since “Dumb and Dumberer”


    Retardless:
    (yes, pun intended) There is nothing that necessarily trebuchets product-identification and a ~somewhat congruent visual presentation of self across the universe into a shadow-world act of Narcissistic Personality Disorder + its sidecar of insecurity that’s usu. disguised as a desperate type of Chest-Beating.

    .
    It’s the extreme cases that turn into ersatz bourgeois-snobbery and exaggerated reductionism of all into brand; forsaking all other value except the tin bling that indicates the equally-tinny soul underneath;
    ie: it’s Hot Chicks With Douchebags.

    *ironic this post’s written by a ‘hot chick’, Non??

    .
    There are plenty of guys who drive hot cars that are completely matter-of-fact about them and have the true self-esteem and anti-douche-fu to keep a healthy balance and avoid the ego-surf. -I’ve met several.
    You’d be surprised how many super-high-value guys (not just in $$$-terms) are total freaking sweethearts. ex: Guy Kawasaki is one of them.

    .
    They don’t all have to be Donald Trump.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I don’t get this article at all.

    The only thing we need as humans is food, air, water & shelter. You don’t NEED anything else. Most people don’t actually NEED a car period. It’s pretty easy to argue that by buying a car period, your time is most important than people who can’t afford/don’t buy a car.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      +1 My time is far more valuable to me than buying ANY possession for the “look at me” purpose. While RF’s perspective has a lot of validity, there are lifestyles that are genetically successful without wasting resources falsifying one’s credentials. There are (some) potential mates who are looking for individuals that are worthy and forthright. The success of poser-mobiles just proves there are plenty of potential mates (ladies, ahem) who don’t know any better.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I believe in the “Battle Beasts theory of automotive status”. Maybe you might remember the line that went something like “Water beats fire, fire beats wood, wood beats water.” If you play the game right, you can never lose.

    Let’s say I never ever want to feel envy when I see someone else’s car. I go out and buy a Lexus LS, a full size flagship luxury sedan. Therefore it equals an A8, 7, XJ, or S. This class automatically beats midsize luxury cars, and by extension, all other 4 door cars.

    I see a Range Rover or Escalade EXT down the street. But they probably drive it because they have to navigate their acreage or estate. That means that they can’t afford to live in the city like I can. Therefore, I still win.

    Maybe I see a Murcielago and a Veyron down the street. Well, they only carry 2 people, whereas mine carries 5 plus all my luggage. I win again.

    Finally, I’ll see a Flying Spur or perhaps an S65 on the road. Since my LS is probably more reliable, quieter, and gets better gas mileage, my car wins yet again.

    Be a smart narcissist. Never play games where you can lose. ;)

  • avatar
    niky

    What do my cars say about me?

    This guy knows nuthin’ about cars. He buys stuff that’s cheap, cheaply made, breaks a lot…

    Bought only one car for narcissistic purposes, but as it carries five people and sometimes gets decent mileage on the highway, I think I can be forgiven for the absolute riciness of it having a trunklid spoiler that blocks half my rear-view mirror… and obscures the rest when the third brake-light goes on at night… and a curb scraping chin-extension.

  • avatar
    StevenJJ

    Golf GT TDI.

    Not sure and don’t care.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    07 VW GTI – says I like sporty (factory aero kit, 18″ huff wheels), but not enough to give up practicality (30mpg, 4doors, & a hatch). I also tend to get off the beaten path as far as styling (factory plaid covered seats). My driving style says that I unnecessarily spend my money for the capability to do something (usually in the slow lane going the speed limit w/ the cruise on). Verdict: Guilty. Pretty much spot on. The fact that mine is stock keeps me from being pulled into the often idiotic “dubber” scene.

    10 Toyota 4Runner – says I’m another DINK yuppy that wanted a big fancy SUV. Verdict: Not guilty. I chose the 4Runner for the off-road/4WD and cargo carrying capability. I wanted something that would seat 4 or 5 adults and all their luggage/gear for vacations, camping trips, and mountain biking trips up in the mountains. It is outfitted with roof racks and hitch mounts for bikes, canoes, and home depot runs. A big reason I selected it was due to the proper 4WD system instead of a FWD based system that waited until a slip was detected before engaging the transfer to the rear wheels. If I didn’t have a good daily driver, I’d have compromised on the 4WD system, but since I do, I went for the most capability. I’d prefer that it had the exterior of the trail edition (unpainted plastic fender flairs and bumper lowers), but the TE was a bit more expensive, so I’ll suffer w/ the fancy exterior w/ the chrome trim.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My 05 xB says I’m cool, with discriminating taste. Or so my kids’ friends tell me.

    My 09 Sedona says I have a lot of kids, and that I’ve gone through 3 previous minivans with mixed results.

    My 01 Elantra says I can’t afford a higher-end beater car for running errands.

  • avatar
    turbobeetle

    08 Mustang Deluxe 4.0l 5 speed – says I like to drive, love cars, but I cannot afford much.

    00 F150 XLT standard cab flair side 4.6l w/ custom 18×9 wheels, lowered, and more customization to come – says nobody makes a truck like I want it.

    07 Yamaha R1 w/ reduced gear ratio & exhaust – says “Get the F*** out of my way!

    When it comes to car and motorcycle fans, if you really want to know if the owner is just doing it for attention or if they are a true gear head, find out if they wash/clean the car themselves, do the perform their own maintenance, or do they just pay someone to do everything and just drive it to be seen in? Can they put on a decent conversation about their car with facts and details (outside what it stickers for)?

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      I somewhat agree with this except the end.

      I have a gsx-r 600 (similar to your R1 but slower of course) and an STi. The wife has a neon.

      What does the gsx-r 600 say? That depends how you ride it more than the bike itself. I wear 20 pounds of body armor. That means Im probably not a 20-something with his first bike (I’m in my mid 30′s). It says I take safely semi-seriously. It also says “get out of the way” (agreed with you there).

      What does the sti say? It says I used to want a fast/budget vehicle and didn’t have an M class. Now it says that I enjoy driving a decent speed under control when the snow trucks can’t clear the snow fast enough or the road is all slush.

      To someone else a gsx-r might say ‘that guy is an idiot (for riding a donorcycle)’. The sti might say ‘that guy loves ugly ass cars and has no sense of style’.

      I really think a car says something different to different people. Debating what a car “says” is kind of pointless IMHO since there is no consensus.

      Also: I don’t service either my car NOR bike except for VERY basic things — Tire pressure, chain adjustment (bike), chain lubrication & cleaning. I don’t wash my bike or my car — takes too long and I don’t have a flat surface to do it. That really has nothing to do with me being an enthusiast. If I didn’t have to adjust/lube my chain every 2 weeks I’d pay someone to do it as well.

      I look at it this way: Any time you spend on maintenance could be time driving or doing something more pleasurable. I still consider myself an enthusiast no matter what other “enthusiasts” thing.

      Btw, both vehicles are 100% stock except for some rear spools on the bike so I can lift it easily with my pitbull.

  • avatar
    relton

    A Cadillac Eldorado with an 8.2 liter engine says, “I can be even more wasteful and consume more gas than a full size pickup truck, and have enven less utility”.

    I sure like that car, though.

    Bob

  • avatar

    I own a g35 04 coupe with a manual transmission. As a 19 year old college student that now attend a school with no parking (transferred after purchase unexpectedly), I’d say it makes me a car-nut narcissist who makes terrible financial decisions.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I dunno what does having a pair of 1988 BMW 528es say about me? That I can fix myself with basic handtools.

  • avatar

    Fins…it’s all about fins.I can’t let go of that late 50s era,the space race,Cold War and the cars.It was all about what was possible in the late 50s.

    The cars showed it with push button operating systems, fins and emblems that looked like rockets.

    Oh yeah-I’ll admit there’s a latent “look at me” thing going on now in 2010 with fin cars.It comes with the territory…

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I rarely own a car long enough for it to really say anything about me. 14 cars in 8 years, and all but one have been bargain basement, auction bought, scrapyard fodder. The only thing these cars said about me is
    “This guy is a cheapskate who doesn’t like spending money on his car, maintaining his car, or even washing his car.”

  • avatar
    beckfiveoh

    The ’07 CR-V says I’m wise enough to keep the family in a safe(ish) ride while the 89 LX 5.0 says I’m balanced (read: stupid) enough to remember how to have some fun behind the wheel. As seldom as that may occur.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    My car says that I know a bargain when I see one. I have a 2006 Cadillac STS V8 with the performance package. It must have stickered for almost $60K when new. I got it for $23K with 35K miles on it through the CPO program.

    This is a car that the cognoscenti love to sneer at. That’s fine by me. The resulting depreciation means that I got a bargain. I’m sure a fully-equipped 5 series, A6 or E-Class is a “better” car. Having said that, I’m enjoying a solid, comfortable powerful ride for the price of a Civic. The car has been rock-solid and all indications are that it will serve me well for the next two years of warranty-protected ownership.

    My other ride (a ’97 Triumph Trophy) says that I like riding motorcycles. It’s scheduled to be replaced by either a Ducati or a Thruxton later this year.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    I can relate to those who DIY their ride maintenance. At least they are interested enough to pay the personal effort price to enjoy their inclination. Had I done that, we would not have been able to provide 5 years each and fully paid college for two daughters. Cars didn’t fit though it did require DIY two Fords purchased 2 – 3 years old for cash and sold when they were each 21 years old. Cars didn’t fit to the objective of a house free and clear at 65. With the market crash of 2008 came loss of 401k’s and homes upside down for many over 50. When they should have had the end objective in sight the dream is gone. Was the satisfacton of a car worth it?

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    As has been pointed out, the same can be said of what you wear, do for a living, neighborhood you live in, food you eat etc. that said, this is a car site, so the “what does your car say about you” thing makes sense.

    however, to be fair we should be taking into consideration what people can afford as well. the civic says much more about it’s driver if he’s a CEO rather than a college student.

    for me, i’m driving a 2003 mazda protege. at the time i bought it i was right out of college and couldn’t afford more than 15K. My choices were civic, corolla, sentra, ion, or protege (because i couldn’t stomach the other offerings). In the end I chose the best driving experience of those three without giving up fuel economy or reliability. Also I got a great deal because the new Mazda3 was debuting and the dealer was giving (not literally) the proteges away to make room (part of me wishes I waited for the 3 and just got a base model, but c’est la vie).

    now, if i had the means would i go for something nicer? yeah. i’d like some leather interior, more sound dampening, and a few more horses. but i still love my protege.


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