Car Shrinks

Forget rear-seat legroom. Automakers have decided that the key to higher sales lies in meeting your deepest emotional needs.


After years of competing for “best-in-segment rear legroom,” Detroit has begun vying for owner self-esteem, sense of security, pride of ownership, and other psychological values. Emotion is the big word in Motown, as in “we want vehicles that make an emotional connection.” It’s as if the industry had relocated en masse to Marin County.

With his accent and swooping coiffure, [psychologist Dr. G. Clothaire] Rapaille is the best known and most colorful of a new group of auto psychologists to whom Detroit has turned….

Born in occupied France, Rapaille began his career as a psychologist helping autistic children, and now claims he’s doing an “extension of the work done by many of the great scholars of the 20th century, including Jung, Laing, Levi-Strauss, and Benedict.” He has helped Procter & Gamble focus on aroma as the archetype behind Folger’s coffee, inspiring the famous ad in which a mother, awakened by the smell of coffee, realizes her soldier son has come home. Rapaille has also delved into the essence of cheese for Kraft.

…Ford recently called in his company, Archetype Discoveries Worldwide, to help it come up with a new concept for the youth market. “They are still thinking with the cortex” is all he’ll say. Rapaille advocates tapping the emotional lower brain instead.

Now that “the homeland is at war,” Rapaille is looking into the archetype of “safety and security.” “One aspect of the reptilian is survival,” he says. “That is why people run out to buy guns–even though you can’t shoot down a plane with a gun–or sneakers to run fast, or a big powerful SUV.”

Read the full article at