Sydney Morning Herald - Tuesday 27 September, 2005

They're big, aggressive beasts - and that's just the drivers

By Damien Murphy

No contest Mosman mother of three Chris Rooney with son Jack, 4, in their BMW X5. Ms Rooney says she chooses to drive a 4WD because she believes it's the safest option for her family.  Photo: Steven Siewert

The apparent victory of the giant four-wheel-drive in the urban jungle has prompted much road outrage, but now a profile of city off-roader owners confirms many prejudices, revealing them as aggressive, obese people who dislike gays and Aborigines.

And that's just the men.

The Australia Institute study found women who own luxury 4WDs were markedly different from the 40-to-50-year-old blokes: They're younger, wealthier and, while they worry about weight (their own), they couldn't care less about conspicuous consumption.

"People say, what about the environment?" declared Mosman mother of three, Chris Rooney, who drove a Range Rover for years but has swapped to a BMW X5. "For me, my children's safety is more important." The study investigated demographic and attitudinal characteristics of 4WD owners using data Roy Morgan Research collected from more than 24,000 people between October 2003 and September 2004.

It found 66 per cent of men who owned large 4WDs were obese, compared with 57 per cent of the population overall. On homosexuality, 51 per cent of 4WD owners thought it immoral, while only 43 per cent of Australian men overall agreed.

Among luxury 4WD owners, 89 per cent of women wanted to lose weight and 64 per cent (men and women) thought the Howard Government was doing a good job (47 per cent).

The institute's executive director Clive Hamilton, who wrote about the 4WD phenomenon in Affluenza, said the public's disdain towards 4WD owners, coupled with rising petrol prices, would curb sales to fat men.

"Some North Shore mums don't seem as community-minded as the rest of us and they'll continue to happily focus on themselves, their friends and worry about what schools they get their children into," he said.

"For them the price of petrol is not a problem. In fact, higher petrol prices for these women bestows a certain cachet that only money can buy."

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