The Secret Life of cars by BMW



Carmaker BMW has published the results of a UK-based study into the way people behave and feel while travelling in cars, both as drivers and passengers. The findings come in a report called "The Secret Life of Cars and What They Reveal About Us", which was commissioned to help BMW understand drivers' current and future needs.


The report, which can be downloaded here (3.3Mb), explores issues such as the way sign language (top image) has evolved so drivers can commnicate with each other - but notes that no satisfactory signal for "sorry" has emerged. It also finds that, with the rise of eating and drinking in cars, inadequate cupholders is one of the biggest sources of driver discontent (above).


Among other issues explored in the report - which involved research, focus groups, driver interviews and in-car observations over a four-month period - are attitudes to vehicle emissions and climate change, talking and even singing in cars and the relationships people have with their vehicles.


Above: where couples sit when they travel together. Below: BMW bodycolour preferences in the UK


The report explores the rituals of getting into and out of cars (men take an average of 8 seconds to get out, women 10 and families up to 10 minutes) and identifies new trends among car owners such as personalisation, regional colour preferences and "green-upmanship" - "a tendency to worry about whether their car looks 'un-green'.

It suggests that families are now likely to spend more time together in the car than anywhere else and that car journeys have replaced the "semi-mythical family mealtime" as the main point of communal experience.

The report was compiled by Not Actual Size.

Download the full report here (3.3Mb PDF file)

Posted on Sunday July 22nd 2007 at 9:27 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Allan Cohen


    I was unable to download your BMW sponsored study about people and their cars. Could you send me a hard copy?

    Allan Cohen
    6207 Tamannary Dr
    Greensboro, NC 27455

  • Bob

    I don’t need a hard copy =) but the PDF does seem to be “damaged”. If so, I’d love to see a working copy, thanks!

  • Bob

    Works for me now, thanks so much!

  • devesh mistry

    Loved the title, and it lives up to the report.
    It shows the company’s pro active nature…

  • relly interesting, but impossible to download pdf (damaged). I’d like to know details:)

  • Hi Olga etc, I’ve just checked and the PDF downloads fine if you use either of the links in the story above.

    It’s a very popular download though so maybe it’s a bandwidth issue or something… keep trying.


  • Alessio Paoletti

    a very interesting study, for a more conscious
    approach to human-oriented design

  • see the light

    “green-upmanship” – “a tendency to worry about whether their car looks ‘un-green’.

    I cant belive that most UK BMW drivers are hung up about thier appearance in the eyes of others. If this was true they would not have bought one, for despite being formidable driving machines the drivers of these vehicles are seen by most as ******** there right minded folk would stay clear and buy a mercedes or audi?

    you try waiting for someone to let you out of a side street onto a main riad and youll be there for ever in a bmw, most people would rather let out bus or roll-royce!

    To promote the vision of being Green you could do a lot worse than Saab or Volvo (not withstanding their respective owners)

  • very informative critique of the sociological and behavioral status of car users. This can be used for any marketing propaganda and also for improving car accessories and parts

  • It's funny that most of the pictures basically show how people "live" in their cars. Interesting article.