Car as Status Symbol

Some might say that mobility is changing and “the times in which the car stood as a status symbol in front of the front door are slowly but surely over” (Kleebinder, 2018). That is arguably a trend in Western Europe, where there is evidence that Millennials, especially men, are less interested in owning and driving cars than the previous generation, and more attracted to alternative modes of transport. However, the opposite seems to be true in parts on Central and Eastern Europe. Three decades after the demise of state socialism, cars are still considered as a necessity and/or a status symbol, even among adolescents who never experienced socialism and its restrictions on car ownership and use (Pojani et al., 2018).

Cars are purchased not only to fulfil mobility needs but also to signify freedom and a higher socio-economic status in a market-driven, competitive milieu.

To understand people’s mode choice attitudes, transportation planners routinely rely on surveys or other self-report measures. This data helps shape informational campaigns and other policy interventions to push travel behaviour toward more sustainable modes and away from single-occupancy, gasoline-powered vehicles. However, respondents may hold implicit attitudes that differ from their expressed answers to surveys because of social desirability bias, self-enhancement, or self-ignorance. This mismatch between attitudes measured through surveys and the actual preferences underlying behaviour could have wide ranging impacts on the shape and efficacy of the policy interventions meant to shape people’s behaviour. There are significant differences between implicit and explicit measures of social status biases in the mode choice between car and bus and how this bias may affect travel behaviour (Moody, 2016).