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Obese cars

OK, who’s to blame for our overweight cars? The government, the auto manufacturers, or us the consumer. I have a 1994 Subaru Justy that weighs in at a svelte 1850 lbs. No wonder the car gets 40-45 mpg…and no non-hybrid car sold today can match this economy.

I also have a 1997 Subaru Impreza which I would like to sell and upgrade to a new 2011 Impreza. Well, in 14 years the car has gained nearly 300 lbs. and the fuel economy has dropped by about 3-4 mpg. I think I know some of the reasons why…much more safety equipment and larger engines and transmissions in order to move all this bulky safety equipment around. If I want to drive an “unsafe” car that should be my prerogative, shouldn’t it?

Sorry, just had to vent…oh, by the way, I’m keeping the Justy, unless they mandate it off the road. I guess I’ll have to give in with the Impreza…and why is it so hard to find a manual transmission these days?

I think the gadget happy consumer has done this.
All accessories have weight. Something us airplane pilots consider on a daily basis but automobile operators never even wonder.

  • Sound systems’ components.
  • Power window, seat, sliding door, moon roof and other motors and mechanisms.
  • buying the bigger engines.
    All these things add weight at every turn.
    Even putting in a box of tools and service supplies can add 20 or more pounds.

Well, the weight has something to do with it certainly, and not just from the safety equipment. Americans are obsessed with bigger and faster, which is why the completely unnecessary for anyone Excursion and Hummers were sold, and which is why as I’ve said before my TL is now considered slow despite being as fast as a Lamborghini Miura. The average minivan made today can keep up with the average exotic made 30 years ago, which, while admittedly fun, is absolutely absurd for day to day transportation. You’re hauling kids around. You don’t need to worry about your 0-60 time. And then there’s the size issue. Compare a 1990’s Civic to one from today. People don’t want small cars, and even if they do want a small car, they still want it to look like a freaking rolling fortress.

As for your wanting to drive an “unsafe” car, it should only be your prerogative if you can prove that doing so won’t hurt anyone else. If you’re willing to give up ever carrying passengers, and you’re willing to give up using any state resources or aid in your medical care and recovery from injuries that happen as a result (this of course includes paying for the rescue team that has to scrape your carcass off the street because you couldn’t just walk away from the wreck as you can with a modern safe car), then I’d have no problem with you driving a car made of tissue paper.

The notion that the free market will lead to the level of automotive safety that people want has been disproven time and again by the car makers themselves. They fought seat belts tooth and nail, not because they didn’t think seat belts would be useful in a wreck, but because they didn’t want to have to pay for installing them. Ford calculated that it would be cheaper to pay out on wrongful death lawsuits than it would be to fix the gas tanks on their trucks so they would not catch fire in crashes, and so they knowingly sold vehicles that were essentially ticking time bombs.

Besides, I guarantee that those “unnecessary” safety features weigh a hell of a lot less than the navigation systems, subwoofers, sound insulation, throne-like seats, rear-seat TVs, power windows, power locks, remote entry, hands-free cell phones, and all the other little gizmos we want in our cars today. That plus the obsession I mentioned earlier with Ferrari-like minivans is why cars don’t get better mileage. The safety equipment is almost negligible from that standpoint.

The average consumer doesn’t want to ride around in a tin can. Right or wrong, people associate vehicle size and weight with safety.

It all goes together. Your Justy is light, good economy, but I’ll trade it any day for the Impreza. And like it or not, safety regs are in place, it not your perogative to buy a new unsafe car, keep your Justy as long as you like. Deaths/mile have decreased costantly every year, the only real change is safer cars. Doesn’t really bother me, except that they’re messing up the visibility in their desire to get the top safety ratings.

40-45 MPG? That’s pretty good considering it’s only rated for 30 MPG overall (2008 standards) or 35 MPG (old standards). Anyway, it’s been decided by demand that people would rather be safer, have more power, and have more comfort than they would have an extra few miles per gallon. The market for the 3 cylinder death trap has not been that strong in this country.

In the last 14 years I myself have gained 60 pounds. And I need lots of additional gadgetry to accomodate my arthritic old aging body. And more space to move arouond in the seat. Perhaps the aging of the population has manifested itself as a need for more interior room with wider (heavier) seats and more doodads.

I drove manuals for decades. My age-related disabilities now make an automatic a more practical choice. Perhaps the aging of the population has affected the ratio of manual trannys to automatic trannys desired by the marketplace as well.

If all cars were to suddenly become lightweight, compact tin cans with no safety features at all other than say a 3 point shoulder harness you know what would happen?

The public would be screaming bloody murder to the Feds and the entire court system from local district courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court would be stuffed to the gills with lawsuit filings.

Personally, I’d like to see a small inexpensive car (no A/C, manual windows, no radio) introduced in which many safety regulations have been waived just to see what would happen as to sales and injury/fatality statistics. Logic would dictate that with the latter that number would go up in comparison but you never really know.
I drove for many years and many miles with old VW Bugs/Beetles and a couple of early Subarus with never a problem.

Why the lack of manual transmissions? Because it’s much more difficult to make cell phone calls and text message, apply makeup, play with the GPS, and read the next chapter of War and Peace while shifting gears manually. :slight_smile:

“OK, who’s to blame for our overweight cars?”

Blame ? When I shop for cars, I shop for heavy cars.

That cute little Justy is the cat’s meow to you until you tangle with one of my machines that outweigh it by 2:1.

We drive 60,000 to 70,000 plus miles in my household and I’m not concerned about MPG. I want safety, comfort, a quiet ride, and an American name badge on every one of our many cars.

How’s that Justy for safety, comfort and convenience with four men and four sets of golf clubs in it ?


My first car, a Sunbeam Imp. could be lifted by two good size guys and moved like a wheel barrel. My high school friends had a lot of fun with it. I was hit by a Grayhound bus one night on Interstate 70 in Columbus Ohio. (the bus driver fell asleep) and a few years later I sold it to an employee who ran into the back of a Chevy Impala and only got a few scratches, but that was the end of that car.

Small does not equal unsafe.  However there is something of a general tendency that way.

Also, there are folks who live in the Great White North who can benefit from the added traction you get with a heavier car.

Kuiama, these folks who choose large vehicles don’t deserve your scorn. I suggest you spend less time worrying about what other people drive. You will be happier, and fewer conservatives will think of us liberals as freedom-hating extremists.

Thank You, Whitey. You Explained It Well.

Drive through our golf course parking lot. You’ll see 50 - 60 large cars, P/Us, and SUVs, and a couple Harleys, all American name plates. You won’t find any Japanese iron there and certainly not a Justy, whatever it is. Same goes for my daughter’s H.S. parking lot. All of her friends drive GM, Chrysler, Ford, And Jeep. The foreign country name plated vehicles are just not acceptable, here, sorry. Also, there is no dealer support for them anywhere near here.


I have the perfect car for you:

Weighing in at 1927 lbs, with a 6 speed manual transmission, and a Toyota 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine that makes only 134 hp and 118 ft-lbs of torque is the Lotus Elise.

You give up the cargo space of the Justy, and the fuel economy you are used to, but you get a car that sticks to the ground around corners like its welded to the pavement, and puts a smile on your face that doesn’t go away for a week, all while making you giggle like a little girl.

Plus, its much, much safer than the Justy in the event of a crash.

As for your desire to drive an “unsafe” car, that’s entirely up to you.
You aren’t allowed to buy a brand new unsafe car in the US, and that’s a good thing.
But you are allowed to buy and drive any old jalopy you can get your hands on, unless you live in an area that has safety inspections on a regular basis.

If you want a brand new unsafe car, then you are going to need to more to someplace like China or India, which is where they sell bottom of the barrel vehicles for almost no money, to populations that are so out of control, their governments really don’t care if many thousands of people die every year in minor traffic accidents.


You’d better buy it quick. Lotus will no longer be making the Elise that we’ve come to know and love. They’re going “upscale” with their entire product line. Even the Elise is growing bigger.

I would have to put some blame on the Federal Government. The passive restraint systems have to add weight. ABS adds weight as well as a maintenance obligation; those extra brake lines will rust after a while. Stability control probably just adds a little to the ABS.

Then there are the modules that come with those three which means wiring. I don’t like having lots of wiring unless the word Monster is involved. I was amazed at how much Monster Cable was unsold when Circuit City went out of business. Good thing that stuff isn’t required for computers.

The manual transmissions? I coud have sworn that they all went to the Toyota dealer in Augusta Me. on Sunday. I’d love to have a manual trasmission but this body I drag with me isn’t up to the job.

Although I like some added weight like that in stereos and CD players, power windows, power locks and mirrors as well as cruise control, I wasn’t attracted to cars at an early age because of the safety equipment.

That’s why I’m waiting for the Alfa Romeo C4 to hit the US in 2013.
1800 lbs. Mid engine, rear drive.
Carbon fiber body and aluminum chassis.
Turbo 4 cylinder engine with direct injection.
Handling like the lotus, but with the Power of a Porsche.

Plus, styling done by Italians.

Sorry, I have to clean the drool off of my work desk and keyboard now.


The fact a car is larger and heavier does not automatically make it a gas guzzler either.
Jay Leno has a 500 cubic inch, 600 horsepower Corvette that gets 28 MPG.

The 2011 V-6, 300 horsepower Mustangs get 31 MPG and during a competition on a race track to see which vehicle could go further on a tank of gas the Mustang won it at well over 40 MPG. (43 or 48 MPG, I forget which)

We’re talking about a Justy. Think 1 step above a Yugo. Greyhound bus would have killed you easily in either a Justy or Yugo. I had a friend who pulled many a wrecked Justy once the critically injured were removed.

I share your desire to own only American cars, CSA, but on this Car Talk forum, you and I are far out-numbered by the foreign car afficianados. Remember the post a few months ago about favorite cars owned? Most of the answers were long lists of foreign cars. Anytime someone posts a question for opinions on which car to buy, the overwhelming majority of the answers are recommending non-American cars. There seems to be an undercurrent of scorn for the Big Three on this forum, and a very open hatred by many posters towards anyone driving a large SUV or vehicle deemed “unnecessary” by the know-it-alls. Whitey’s right; why do people get upset over others’ choice of vehicles? Personally, I don’t care what vehicle somebody else chooses to drive, but it annoys me to be criticized for my choice. Now, tell me where you live so I can move there. I don’t play golf, but I only drive American iron!

Thanks for all the insightful replies good people. I understand that I represent the minority viewpoint and do not fit the typical American lifestyle (haste, waste, extravagance, luxury…you all know what I’m talking about). The most meaningful point is made by OK4450 who states that he drove for years in smaller lighter cars with never a problem…myself also. I have always contended that there aren’t really “safe” cars but “safe” drivers. By introducing more and more safety features to our cars we have emboldened drivers, encouraging them to drive harder and faster…and more recklessly.
I suppose someday in the future these vehicles will essentially be driving themselves and we will no longer be a “driver” but a mere passenger…it seems to be heading that way.
I guess I just long for simpler times and simple things…the Justy gives me that feeling:) …and I never drive it on the highway or in severe weather…that’s what the Impreza is for. AWD is one “safety” feature I can definitely call beneficial!