It's easy to point a quick finger at the popularity of SUVs, yet while they have undoubtedly had a large impact they are not the only cause for concern. With each successive model, our cars are getting longer, wider and heavier. The 2006 Honda Civic, for example, which continues to fall under the compact classification, is about the same size and weight as the 1986 Honda Accord which even at the time was considered a mid-size sedan. Even the next iteration of the new Mini whose name defines its class will grow by 74mm in length over its predecessor.
MSNBC reports that according to the latest EPA data, the average weight of an American manufactured car has grown by over 500 pounds to tip a whopping 4,142 on the scale. Reale notes that the two largest issues to overcome are the public's desire for more horsepower and the false notion that size and weight increase safety.
He acknowledges that car manufacturers are continuously looking for ways to reduce the weight of their cars by using lighter materials as well as asking their suppliers to reduce the weight of their parts. However, their efforts have fallen short in the battle against overall weight gain.
We've already seen the seeds of a change in attitude by the surging popularity of smaller vehicles like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Chevy Aveo, but it will be interesting to see just how small the American consumer is willing go. Perhaps, the 2008 introduction of the Daimler-Chrysler's diminutive Smart car to American shores will in fact be well-timed.