Research and Publications

New TR-D paper on public perceptions of eco-cars co-authored by Dorina Pojani

Transport choices are not merely practical decisions but steeped in cultural and societal perceptions. Understanding these latent drivers of behaviour will allow countries to develop and import policies to more successfully promote sustainable transport. Transport symbolism – what people believe their ownership or use of a mode connotes to others about their societal position – has been shown to be one such, non-trivial, hidden motivator. In the case of hybrid and electric cars (‘eco cars’), studies have demonstrated how their symbolic value varies within a society among different social groups. As yet, however, there has been scant research into comparing how the symbolism of a mode varies across national cultures, horizontally, between individuals with similar socio-demographic characteristics. Through qualitative thematic analysis, this study utilises two of Hofstede’s cross-cultural indices – power differential and individualism versus collectivism – to develop and strengthen theory on how the differing symbolism of eco cars currently varies between four cultural clusters – Anglo, Nordic, Confucian and South Asian. It also deliberates how observed symbolic qualitative differences may influence an individual or group choice to procure eco cars. Finally, it discusses how policy development, transfer and marketing, within the context of eco cars, may need to be modified by national governments, in the Confucian and South Asian cultures, so as to encourage uptake and modal shift.

Title: The symbolism of ‘eco cars’ across national cultures: Potential implications for policy formulation and transfer


  • David Ashmore (University of Melbourne)
  • Dorina Pojani (UQ|UP)
  • Roselle Thoreau (University of Auckland, NZ)
  • Nicola Christie (UCL, UK)
  • Nicholas Tyler (UCL, UK)

Download from Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment.