Researchers must coax out the elephant in the room

Rory Sutherland

"How did the Le Shuttle research go?"

"First was okay. But the second group was a bit of a write-off. We had a Saab driver in it."

This conversation happened over ten years ago – which is why we referred to Le Shuttle, rather than Eurotunnel. We had been interviewing groups of people who routinely took their cars across the Channel in a bid to discover their relative preferences for the (then still relatively new) train service versus the old-established ferries.

This was the first I had heard of this 'Saab driver' phenomenon. Other researchers may have had different nicknames for this particular character-type, but 'Saab driver' was used to describe a peculiarly cut-and-dried breed of respondent to be found disproportionately among the drivers of the Swedish car brand.

While other people were happy to acknowledge that they were, despite everything, rather fond of the ferries – and felt comfortable with the ritual they had established for family holidays over the past several years, Saab driver was having none of this: "This whole conversation is stupid. Five years ago, I had to go by boat. Now they've built a tunnel, so I take the train."