People who drive large four-wheel drive vehicles are more likely to be fat, conservative men who dislike homosexuals, a major survey of driver attitudes in Australia reportedly has found.

Reuters said the research by think tank The Australia Institute found the typical city driver of a large four-wheel-drive vehicle was a man in his 40s or 50s, with an above average income, and who would describe themselves as a rugged individual.

However, it said luxury four-wheel drives were more likely to be driven by diet-conscious women with high incomes who used their vehicles in cities rather than the country, the news agency noted.

“Members of this group are more than twice as likely as the general population to say ‘I was born to shop’,” the institute reportedly said, adding that they were also more image conscious and less likely to be overweight.

The research is based on a survey of more than 24,000 people, which focused on large four-wheel drive vehicles and the more expensive luxury models, Reuters said.

The news agency said that, despite rising petrol prices, Australia’s automotive industry has reported continued strong sales of sports utility vehicles, more commonly known in Australia as four-wheel drives, with sales up 6.9% over the 12 months to August 2005.

Four-wheel drives make up about 18% of Australia’s new car market, an increase of 135% in eight years, with most of the rise due to demand from city dwellers who have no plans to ever take their vehicles off-road, the report added.