Americans Growing Too Large for Their Cars


The Cadillac XLR two-seater has a weight capacity of 362 pounds.

Irony of ironies. It sounds like a plot line from "The Simpsons" -- and, the fates willing, someday will be -- but it seems Americans are growing too obese to be transported safely by many car models.

USA Today has the skinny:

The growing girth of Americans is colliding with government-mandated warning labels on all 2006 or newer cars that list the maximum weight — passengers and cargo — that's safe to carry.

Many two-seat sports cars, including Mazda MX-5 Miata and Chevrolet Corvette, aren't certified to carry two 200-pound adults, according to a government formula aimed at tire safety.

Many five-passenger vehicles are rated about 850 pounds, maxxing out if their five occupants weigh more than 170 pounds each. Six 200-pounders would overload the seven-passenger Dodge Grand Caravan minivan.

The limitations are stamped on a "Tire and Loading Information" plate on the driver's side door frame. The ratings are an outgrowth of the 2000 Firestone tire recall, in which overloading was considered a factor that could cause tires to fail. Weight limits are important because automakers could claim they don't have responsibility for a component failure or a crash if a vehicle is overloaded.

Automakers say the limits reflect a mandated federal formula that requires them to rate passengers at 150 pounds each. The limit may not be realistic "given American propensity for food, but that is the regulation," says Mazda safety director Dan Ryan.

Photo: Joits/Flickr