Americans Cars: Overweight, Overburdened and Over Here?

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
americans cars overweight overburdened and over here

USA Today reports that two average-sized adults and their weekend luggage put a Corvette or MX-5 over its certified weight capacity. Pile your teenage son and five of his football teammates in your Grand Caravan and you're good to go– provided they each weigh less than 165 pounds and leave the gear at home. That's because their manufacturers use a federally-mandated maximum loading formula that sets a minimum average weight of 150 pounds per passenger. While manufacturers are free to increase that figure as they deem appropriate, many don't. It's a CYA tactic in the aftermath of the Firestone tire fiasco, where overloading was "considered a factor" in tire failure and subsequent accidents (and lawsuits). Honda spokesman Sage Marie says if you exceed their vehicles' limit, "we can't be responsible for the vehicle's dynamic characteristics." According to GM's energy and drive quality director, "when we put a label on a vehicle, we need to be conservative."

Join the conversation
4 of 12 comments
  • Glenn126 Glenn126 on Sep 19, 2007

    Why is it that "tow limits" are also coming down in virtually all new generations of cars? Not just weight limits for people/luggage. When we traded a 2002 Hyundai Sonata (rated for 2000 pounds towing) for a 2007 Hyundai Sonata - a larger car, I might add - the new car came with a 1500 pound weight limit. We therefore are happy to tow a 1450 pound pop-up camper and are legal doing so. Just to be on the safe side, I did look at Hyundai's world wide web site, checked a few other English speaking nations which sell the Sonata also, and found that elsewhere (New Zealand specifically), the tow rating is 1654 pounds for unbraked trailers, and significantly more than that for braked trailers. So we consider that we have a "real world" 200 plus pound "leeway" instead of 50 pounds. Even so, despite having the smallest commonly available new pop-up, I've seen people in camp sites look at us as if we were from planet xylaphone because we DIDN'T buy the biggest gashogoholic monstrosity SUV, in order to tow 1450 pounds.... idjits. Perhaps it is because I've watched my mother tow a 2500 pound boat and trailer loaded with thousands of pounds of household goods 500 miles (when I was 12). This was behind a 1960 Studebaker Lark SIX (90 gross horsepower - about 70 net, the current measurement). But by God that little 169.6 cubic inch flat-head six (3" bore, 4" stroke) had TORQUE. The car had 3 on the tree, radio and heater, but it was a "Regal" subseries, so it had - wow - carpets on the floor and lower door panels and a padded instrument panel, as well as a 6-tube push-button AM radio! My mother did the journey successfully and safely, following my dad in the U-haul truck, when we moved to lower Michigan from da UP, eh? Oh yeah, the Studebaker had 9" drum brakes and there were no trailer brakes. (All you need is competent driving skills, and driving courtesy for others and having same shown to you - severely lacking these days by all accounts). Perhaps also it's because I've lived in the UK and watched Escort sized cars pulling 1500 pound "caravans" (full height trailers). Incidentally, the current generation Toyota Corolla is rated at 1500 pounds towing in the US. Any bets that the liars/lawyers will demand that the weight limit comes down when the next generation 2009 Corolla is introduced in the spring?

  • Mikey Mikey on Sep 19, 2007

    Maybe Glenn 126 now that Toyota is big player in the N/A market they don't want thier ass sued off.

  • Whuffo Whuffo on Sep 19, 2007

    These ratings are a disservice to their customers. We tend to look at those labels to determine what our vehicles are capable of and if the ratings are too low we're being "cheated" out of some of the value of our vehicle. Just recently I was considering pulling a small trailer behind my (nameless) 2-seater. Checked the factory ratings; it's rated to pull the smallest enclosed cargo trailer - barely - but that's all. That's just the empty trailer - any cargo would put it over the limit. I have no doubt that this car is capable of towing more weight than the factory rates it for. The hitch to pull that greater weight is widely available for this car. But if anything were to happen along the way I have no doubt that my insurance company would gleefully take notice of the vehicle being operated in excess of its rated capacity and deny any and all claims. Between (nameless) car company and (nameless) insurance company - and more than a few state motor vehicle laws I'm expected not to make use of the honest capacity of this vehicle. To pull this little trailer with some party supplies inside I'd need to buy a SUV or light truck. Gotta check the ratings carefully on those, too - you might be surprised how "conservatively" they're rated.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Sep 19, 2007

    Never make a judgement about size based on weight. Muscle weighs more than fat. If you are 6'3", 250 pounds, and mostly muscle, you may very well fit in the Miata. OTOH, If you are 6' even and 180, you may not. This silliness will end with an even sillier lawsuit. The second some manufacturer tries to hide behind one of these stickers the game is up. Either it will work, and Congress will change the laws, or it will not, and then their lawyers will tell them to do something responsible like put on a number that means something.