It is no secret that over the years, cars have gotten progressively larger. Just how much larger? A study by Edmunds suggests that today’s compact cars are 549 pounds heavier than they were just ten years ago.
How could the smallest cars get so much heavier in just a few years? To be frank, the blame really lies with us, the consumer. We’ve continued to demand more and more from our cars. Air condition and a radio just aren’t enough anymore, which is surprising considering the humble beginnings of most compact cars. Compacts didn’t really gain traction in the U.S. until the 1970’s, during the gas crunch. Take a look at a Ford Pinto; it wasn’t much more than an engine and four wheels attached to an exploding gas tank. Compare that to the new Ford Fiesta, which has more technology crammed into it than the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
It isn’t just technology though, but safety features and the desire for more room. In addition to being 549 pounds heavier, today’s cars compared to those of 200 are over six inches longer. Yet they get just 2.5 mpg better, which is increasingly becoming a problem as automakers are straddled with more stringent fuel economy standards.
American, Japanese, and European automakers need to look to India for inspiration, particularly the Tata Nano. Some people just need simple transportation, not a multimedia mobile device, and if you get rid of all the unnecessary bits, you have a much smaller, lighter, fuel efficient car. I love classic muscle cars, as do many people the world over, and those are some of the simplest cars on the planet. Yet they have endured for decades. Keep it simple, stupid, and you might just make a winner.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.