Don't get me wrong, I think I speak for all of us when I say that a car commercial filled with burnouts and controlled drifting is much more engaging than one showing how many cupholders the car has. Similarly, a Porsche advertisement celebrating the carmaker's motorsport victories will probably sell more cars than one telling you how much electric range you can have in a new Cayenne plug-in hybrid.
With that in mind, a recent UK study (yes, we all know how accurate those usually are) suggests owners of certain cars are more likely to cause an accident.
Before you snicker and move on at the news that this study comes from the UK, you should know that we're talking about some pretty exhaustive research, which studied over 400,000 car crashes in Great Britain.
As it turns out, whenever 'risky or aggressive maneuvers' were involved in those crashes, statistics showed the drivers of some car brands were more predisposed to be accountable than others. Again, this is almost half a million crashes, so statistical errors should be minimal.
The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Social Marketing, hypothesized that some commercials in the automotive sector might be linked to riskier driving behaviors, and it does kind of make sense.
Things like the types of roads where the accidents happened, the culpable drivers' ages, and the car brands were all considered in the research paper. Among the statistical discoveries, it seems that Subaru, BMW, and Porsche drivers were more likely to be involved in speeding, running red lights, illegal overtaking, and ignoring marked pedestrian crossings.
Now, this isn't the first time BMW drivers are outed as non-gentleman-like on the road, but that's not the issue here. The question revolves around why these specific car brands were outlined in the study, as plenty of other carmakers have performance vehicles in their lineups.
According to one of the main authors of the study, who is a University professor of social marketing, there was a more significant occurrence of car brands in the collision data that were broadly categorized as having "advertising and marketing that seems to celebrate performance driving, look at me, king-of-the-road stuff."
In other words, it's the ads and commercials, not the cars themselves, just as I suspected.
Statistics, StatisticsThen again, these results should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the 400k+ accident data only took into account events that happened between 2011 and 2015, and many things have changed since then, especially with the marketing and product lineup of the three car brands outlined as 'hooligans.'
For example, the worst performer from a statistical point of view of the three was Subaru. In case you haven't been paying attention, the Japanese carmaker no longer offers the STI, also known as the epitome of a boy racer's wet dream, until a few years back at least.
On top of that, Subaru's most recent successful commercials no longer revolve around rally-inspired cars with giant wings at the back, instead focusing on family road trips and how good their cars are with dogs. Viewers no longer get the sudden urge to drift their Subaru on public roads after watching an ad about Golden Retrievers testing the tent on a Crosstrek.
Despite celebrating 75 years of brand existence and 60 years of the 911 in 2023, Porsche is lately more focused on laying the brick for its future EV range and releasing special edition models of the Neunelfer. That translates into marketing that either revolves around nostalgia or emission-free motoring instead of celebrating its motorsport successes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and such.
Sure, cars like the latest iteration of the 911 GT3 RS, which doesn't even have a luggage compartment and offers more downforce than a GT3 Cup car, can still attract the wrong kind of driver. Still, you won't hear anyone say that Porsches are built exclusively for public road hooligans.
BMW drivers, on the other hand, have almost always been associated with a bad image, and the brand's marketing hasn't strayed away from this association.
For example, those 'M Town' commercials from a few years back were mostly appealing to teenagers and people who don't care that much about breaking the law in the pursuit of 'driving pleasure.'
What the study also tried to answer was the possible correlation between the design of some car models and the type of customers the 'racer' theme attracts. I'm pretty sure there are not that many Nobel Peace Prize winners choosing a 911 S/T over a Cayenne as a daily driver.
Then again, it's easy to speculate that many people instantly think they can become bona fide racing drivers if they choose a car that has a huge wing at the rear and looks like it can blitz around the Nurburgring faster then you can spell the name of the track.
Heck, Porsche still offers the so-called 'Weissach Package' on its GT cars, an options bundle that removes the last remaining bits of comfort behind the wheel on what is still, effectively, a car you drive on public roads most of the time.
Carmakers Can't Handle the Truth?The study answers many questions through correlation and statistics, but it doesn't try to portray those three car brands as irresponsible from a road safety point of view. It does suggest it, though. In fact, all three carmakers have provided explanations and have vehemently denied that they don't take road safety seriously in the UK or other parts of the world.
Subaru went first and reminded people that its rallying days and the related marketing are things of the past, with its modern lineup focusing on values like 'safety, capability, and reliability.'
Porsche even offers track driving experiences for its customers to better understand and respect the amount of performance its sports cars can bring to the table.
Last but not least, BMW brags about adhering to every advertising code with its commercials, which is probably why 'M Town' is depicted as a fictional place, not the real world.
It's essential to approach the study's findings with caution due to scientific limitations, considering the numerous factors involved in driver behavior and collisions. The UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reminded everyone that it's essential to approach the study's findings with caution due to scientific limitations, especially considering the numerous factors and variables involved in driver behavior and collisions.
That is true, and advertising codes don't allow the depiction of high-speed and irresponsible driving on public roads, every commercial being governed by strict regulations. Then again, the fictional M Town looks very much like a real place in those ads, and there are friggin' BMW M4 taxis that drift on the street, not on the track, make-believe or not.
Considering all this, I'm not entirely convinced that there shouldn't be more pressing by the regulators in this area. Boy racers do cause accidents, and a lot of them dream about drifting a BMW in a roundabout, causing a stir with their winged Porsches on the Autobahn, or emulating a rally driver with a WRX STI.
That said, now that hard data has come to light, maybe both carmakers and the government should do more to minimize how modern marketing techniques can influence certain individuals in transforming the cars they love into weapons on wheels.