Study Shows Ford Escort and BMW Drivers Equally Satisfied

By Joel Arellano | July 28, 2011
The classic adage, "Money can't buy you happiness," strikes again, this time against luxury vehicles. Professor Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and the Ross School of Business, and colleague Jing Xu of Peking University studied why luxury car owners felt the same level satisfaction about their cars as owners of economy cars. The professors worked with three groups. They asked the first group to rate its feelings driving a BMW, Ford Escort, or Honda Accord. They queried the second group about what vehicles they owned and how they felt driving them. Lastly, they asked the members of the third group to recollect their most recent trip and how they felt driving at the time. Afterwards, they were asked what vehicle they used during the trip.
The first two groups confirmed the widely held belief that more luxurious, higher status vehicles evoke greater feelings of satisfaction. The third group results show no difference in satisfaction when actually driving the vehicles. Schwarz reasons it's the shift in focus -- from cars to driving -- that causes the change in feeling. "During the test drive of a new car, our attention is focused on the car, and the more luxurious it is, the better we feel while driving it," Shwarz said. "This experience is real, visceral, and compelling. What we miss, however, is one simple thing—once we have owned the car for a few weeks, it no longer captures all of our attention and other things will be on our minds while driving. As soon as that happens, we would feel just as well driving a cheaper alternative." Schwarz and Xu's study can be found in the latest issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Source: Michigan in the News / Stephen M. Ross School of Business