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Survey: CEO's car not what you might expect

By Rosemary Haefner
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( -- If you were to guess what type of car your boss drives, what would you say? Typically, we assume that the higher you go on the corporate food chain, the more lavish the car. But according to a survey commissioned by and, perceptions are very different from reality.

Not surprisingly, a majority (59 percent) of survey respondents think a typical CEO drives a luxury vehicle. The car most commonly associated with a company's CEO is a black Mercedes-Benz.

In the driver's seat

The truth is more CEOs surveyed drive ordinary passenger cars and SUVs than luxury cars; in fact, those who drive Chevys outnumber those in Mercedes. And while most respondents think CEOs spend more than $70,000 on their cars, the average price CEOs in this study paid for their primary vehicle is under $25,000. One in four (26 percent) CEOs surveyed reported they spent less than $20,000 on their primary vehicle.

So what do CEOs drive? Here is a breakdown of the types of vehicles they said they own:

  • 29 percent: Passengers cars
  • 24 percent: SUVs
  • 19 percent: Luxury cars
  • 13 percent: Pickup trucks
  • 9 percent: Vans and minivans
  • 6 percent: Sports cars
  • "When it comes to the perception of what CEOs drive, the respondents surveyed who believe a black Mercedes-Benz is the car of choice for CEOs aren't the only ones," said Patrick Olsen, managing editor of "A similar majority of CEOs who responded to the survey thought their peers were mostly driving expensive luxury cars as well."

    The survey found that banking and finance workers are more likely than workers in any other career segment to drive luxury and sports cars, followed by engineers. Health care professionals say they are most likely to drive SUVs and construction workers surveyed say they are most likely to drive pickup trucks.

    True colors

    It may sound cliche, but government workers like red, white and blue cars, while banking and finance workers have somewhat of an affinity for those the color of money -- green and silver. According to those surveyed, the most popular vehicle colors among select industries include:

  • Government: Red, white and blue
  • Banking and finance: Silver, black, red and green
  • General business: Black, red and blue
  • Education: Red, blue, white and silver
  • Health care: Silver, white and blue
  • Retail: Silver, black and blue
  • Manufacturing: Blue, green and red
  • Food services: Silver, white and green
  • Construction: White, blue and silver
  • Bells and whistles

    Although reliability, price and value for the money are the top factors for both CEO and general population respondents, related to the car-buying process, the CEOs in this study said they are more likely than the other respondents to be influenced by exterior styling, interior roominess and engine performance, while the general respondents are more likely to be concerned with price, value for the money and fuel economy.

    Fundamentally, what a CEO of a company drives isn't extremely different from what the general public drives. The reality is that while there are differences between what drives a CEO to purchase a particular vehicle and what motivates the general public, the car parked in a CEO's driveway isn't as extravagant as most people believe.

    Rosemary Haefner is's vice president of human resources and senior career adviser

    © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority


    Harris Interactive conducted the online study between June 21 and June 23, 2006 among a sample of 2,344 U.S. adults aged 21 to 65 who have a valid driver's license and are employed or looking for work. Of 2,344 qualified respondents who completed the survey, 340 qualified as a CEO, chairman, executive director, president or COO of the company by which they are employed. The other 2,004 are categorized as general public. No weighting was applied to this data and therefore the results cannot be projected to the U.S. adult or CEO populations.

    Overall results have sampling error of +/- 5 percentage points, and +/- 2 with 2,004 adults. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

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