An oddly shaped status symbol

Nowadays we grant high status to big spenders. Driving an SUV, wearing fancy jewellery or having an extensive wardrobe are all signs of prestige. Status is accorded to manifestations of mass consumption, while from a sustainable point of view we should do the exact opposite. Should green be the new gold? When looking closely, it already is…


In recent years, hybrid models have flooded the automotive market. Although every manufacturer has one in its fleet, only a single vehicle has become part of our collective memory: the Toyota Prius. To many, it is hard to imagine how this unusually shaped car has become the absolute bestseller in the hybrid segment.

While having plenty of competition, the Prius managed to outscore all of its more ‘ordinary’ looking rivals. This contrast in aesthetics might well be the key to its success. Apparently, people do not want to pay extra for an option that is hidden under the hood. Instead, they want the world to know that they make a financial effort.

Being environmentally friendly usually goes unseen, there is no public glory in washing clothes at 30°C. Therefore, when the opportunity arises to create a sustainable statement through visual oddness, people start standing in line. Eventually, the Prius was the first car to create a sustainable image, resulting in a resounding success.

Most of its owners care more about the image a Prius creates than the ecological difference it makes. Despite the public’s questionable motives, being environmentally conscious out of self-interest is still better than being not interested at all.

(Frederik Deschuytter)