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Cars on a diet

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Cars on a diet

For years, cars have got bigger and fatter—but now the trend is reversing

LIKE their owners, cars have been piling on the pounds in recent decades. When the Volkswagen Golf was launched in 1974 it weighed 0.75 tonnes and was 3.8 metres long. By 2008, when the mark six Golf was launched, its weight had soared by more than 50% and it had stretched by 38cm. Apart from making their cars roomier, motor manufacturers have added all sorts of gadgets and safety devices and each of these has meant a gain in weight. Finally, however, the pressure from regulators to make cars more fuel efficient, and the rising cost of materials are combining to make carmakers slim down their models. The mark seven Golf, to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September, should weigh 80kg less than its predecessor, reckons AlixPartners, a consultancy. Likewise Peugeot’s new 208 is more petite than its predecessor, the 207, reversing a previous trend of increasing weight and length. The new Golf’s vital statistics are not confirmed yet—AlixPartners is guessing that although its weight will fall, its length may stay the same. However, the Peugeot 208 is 7cm shorter than the 207, which will be handy for squeezing into those tight Parisian parking spaces. A report by the EPA, America’s environmental regulator, found that like many a dieter, the average American car had a relapse in 2010, putting back the pounds it had lost in 2009. Eventually, though, the agency’s strict fuel-economy rules should force American carmakers, like European ones, to offer more svelte models. They will have to do this while also meeting the demands of new safety requirements, which will add almost 8kg to American cars just when they are under unprecedented pressure to slim down.


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