The Age - Tuesday 27 September, 2005

Slob more than slick is city 4WD type

By Saffron Howden

Image reversal: four-wheel drive owners aren't living up to the hype.
Photo: Bob Pearce

FORGET the fit, rugged, 30-or-so-year-old navigating flood plains and climbing mountains in snazzy four-wheel-drives depicted in commercials.

In reality, the drivers are often obese, aggressive, intolerant and aged in their 40s or 50s.

An Australia Institute study has found that city owners of large four-wheel-drives are less community minded than other drivers, less charitable, more likely to be homophobic and have a low opinion of Aboriginal culture.

It also found they are more likely to use force to get their way.

Based on a Roy Morgan Research survey in 2003-04 of 24,718 people aged 14 and over, it found the typical city four-wheel-drive owner is a man in his 40s or 50s in full-time work with a higher-than-average income.

Two-thirds of their drivers in the city are overweight or obese.

They also had a lower regard for the welfare system than the rest of the population.

"These drivers tend to see themselves as rugged individualists who like physical activity," the report's authors, Clive Hamilton and Claire Barbato, said.

While four-wheel-drives are marketed as bold, tough, powerful and made for rugged terrain, the daily reality is that most are driven between school, work and shops in metropolitan areas.

The survey counted only city drivers, where more than half the four-wheel-drives are owned.

But drivers of luxury four-wheel-drives are different. They are more likely to be women in their 30s and 40s who are more materialistic than other Australians.

"This group is more than twice as likely as the general population to say, 'I was born to shop' (33 per cent)," the authors said.

They also watch their weight, and are less likely to be obese.

Dr Hamilton said four-wheel-drives were less fuel efficient and resented by road users. He said special licences and higher taxes should be imposed on owners.


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