Putting Your Tiger
In a Tank
Now and then we are given a peek at what our masters really think of us.
This one was offered on July 17, 2000, by The New York Times.
...Auto Pacific Inc., an auto market research company in Santa Ana, Calif.,
found in another large survey this spring that sport utility buyers placed
a lower value than minivan drivers on showing courtesy on the road. Sport utility buyers
were more likely to agree with the statement, Im a great driver, and to
say that they drove faster than the average motorist...
DaimlerChrysler has chosen high-riding designs even for the two-wheel-drive
versions of its sport utilities, even though they are unlikely to be driven
over rough terrain and are therefore unlikely to need to ride higher, said
David C. McKinnon, DaimlerChryslers director of vehicle exterior design.
Mr. McKinnon said the companys highest executives had told him repeatedly to
get them up in the air and make them husky.
...A recent television ad for the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited showed a
driver who had to scale a pile of rocks that had blocked the driveway to his
house, in a scene intended to show that a sport utility owner can overcome a
threat. Similar themes have been found in ads for the Lincoln Navigator,
promoting it as an Urban Assault Luxury Vehicle or urging customers
to Ditch the Joneses.
Mr. Bostwick of DaimlerChrysler and other auto market researchers
said they had been greatly influenced by Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, a
French-born medical anthropologist who has worked as a consultant to
DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors.
Dr. Rapaille looks at the intellectual, emotional and reptilian, or
instinctual, reasons why people buy consumer products. He said sport
utilities are designed to be masculine and assertive, often with hoods
that resemble those on 18-wheel trucks, vertical metal slats across the
grilles to give the appearance of a jungle cats teeth and flared wheel wells
and fenders that suggest the bulging muscles in a clenched jaw.
Sport utilities are designed to appeal to Americans deepest fears of
violence and crime,* Dr. Rapaille said. Peoples earliest associations with
sport utilities are wartime Jeeps with machine guns mounted on the back,
he explained. Sport utilities are weapons and armored cars for the
battlefield, he said.
Detroit advertising agencies have looked at buying the rights to make
television commercials from the Mad Max series of movies, and inserting
footage of sport utilities into movie scenes showing combat in the
Australian desert by bloodthirsty, leather-clad biker gangs in masks, Dr.
The big, powerful S.U.V.s with a message of dont mess with
me are going to be around for some time, because American culture is not
going to change, he said. The reptilian always wins.