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Americans Growing Too Large for Their Cars

12:59 PM EDT on September 19, 2007

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 withgovernment-mandated warning labels on all 2006 or newer cars that listthe 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 850pounds, maxxing out if their five occupants weigh more than 170 poundseach. Six 200-pounders would overload the seven-passenger Dodge GrandCaravan minivan.

The limitations are stamped on a "Tire andLoading Information" plate on the driver's side door frame. The ratingsare an outgrowth of the 2000 Firestone tire recall, in whichoverloading was considered a factor that could cause tires to fail.Weight limits are important because automakers could claim they don'thave responsibility for a component failure or a crash if a vehicle isoverloaded.

Automakers say the limits reflect a mandated federal formula thatrequires them to rate passengers at 150 pounds each. The limit may notbe realistic "given American propensity for food, but that is theregulation," says Mazda safety director Dan Ryan.

Photo: Joits/Flickr

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