A recent announcement from the Paris government aimed at making life more difficult for heavy goods vehicles is a sign of the times. SUVs have dominated global markets for a decade now. Whether it is a reasonable or political measure, the truth is that there are other aspects to consider beyond just weight. Physical size is a factor, especially when it comes to navigating narrow roads or finding a parking space downtown.
Vehicles are getting bigger and bigger. Logic dictates that a bigger vehicle is also heavier, even if Paris’ decision only concerns weight. This prompted us to take a closer look at overall dimensions, especially since bigger cars haven’t necessarily translated into infrastructure changes allowing for more space to use them.
The United States everywhere:
Americans love big things: food, streets and of course cars. The United States is a haven for big trucks and SUVs, and because the highways and parking lots are generally large, it feels strange to drive small cars. It’s been this way since the 1950s.
According to JATO data for the year 2003, the average length of passenger vehicles in the United States was 196.5 inches. For reference, this is the length of an executive sedan like a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The average width that year was 73.4 inches.
As you might expect, the number of passenger vehicles has increased since then, but you may not realize just how much. In 2013, the average length increased to 203.1 inches and the width increased to 75.9 inches. It was at this time that pickup trucks and SUVs really gained a foothold in the automobile market. But ten years later, the situation continues to grow, leading to record averages for 2023.
Last year, the average length of light vehicles in the United States reached 206.4 inches, with an average width up to 77.1 inches. That’s just a few inches short of a new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and it’s worth noting that the increase in size isn’t linked to larger families. In fact, annual population growth in the United States has declined from 0.96 percent in 2003 to 0.50 percent last year. The increase in car size has more to do with comfort, convenience and safety standards.
Is Europe still buying small cars?
Unlike American buyers who favor large cars, Europe traditionally buys small vehicles. The fact that its cities were designed long before the arrival of the automobile explains why parking is such a difficult task. Additionally, Europe is less self-sufficient in energy than the United States, forcing drivers to moderate their fuel consumption.
However, the popularity of larger SUVs cannot be denied, even among European buyers. In 2003, a few years before the massive arrival of SUVs on the Old Continent, the average length of a passenger vehicle was 169.8 inches, while the average width was 68.3 inches. It’s comparable to a new Volkswagen Golf. In 2013, these values reached 174 inches long and 70.7 inches wide. And last year, things in Europe were bigger than ever: 178.5 and 72.5 inches on average, to be exact.
The trend toward larger cars is a response to providing more comfort and convenience, factors buyers naturally look for in a vehicle. The challenge is finding space on streets and parking lots. Will taxation stop this growth trend? We’ll have to wait and see.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an automotive industry specialist at JATO Dynamics.
Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.motor1.com