The NY Times runs a front page article today about the Toyota Prius the hybrid that makes a statement and that sells. The article says:
A riddle: Why has the Toyota Prius enjoyed such success, with sales of more than 400,000 in the United States, when most other hybrid models struggle to find buyers?
One answer may be that buyers of the Prius want everyone to know they are driving a hybrid.
The article quotes a poll that says that 57% of Prius owners cited as their top reason for buying a Prius that “it makes a statement about me”. (Disclaimer: I drive a Prius too).
This behavior is no different than why users of social networks “pimp out” their profile pages with widgets from companies like Rockyou (a Lightspeed company) and Slide. Self expression is a basic human behavior, whether its instantiated in the car you drive, the rubber wrist band you wear, the sticker you put on your bumper, the IM buddy icon you choose or the widgets you put on your social network profile. It sends a message to the rest of the world about what is important to you.
The Toyota Prius is the facebook app of the auto industry.