The clever term refers to the condition where cars are becoming bigger and heavier than earlier versions.  Just as individual people are getting fatter and heavier, and suffering the consequences, cars are following in this trend.  The condition is also known as “car bloat.”  On average cars are getting one cm wider every two years.

Modern cars generally are larger because of technical developments such as airbags, crumple zones, air conditioners.  But consumer preferences for larger cars, especially Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), are also driving sizes and weights to new highs.





Those increases are also releasing more particles from brakes, tires and road surfaces, which now account for about half of air pollution attributed to traffic.  For example, brakes in large SUVs work twice as hard as those in small compact cars, with greater particle pollution.

In addition, these larger cars require wider road lanes and larger parking spaces, taking space away from walking and cycling.


Some further ideas to explore on Autobesity

What are the size and weight of your favorite car, by manufacturer and model?

How do these dimensions compare with the same car from 5 years ago?

How do these dimensions compare with a comparable electric car?



Gary Fuller, ‘Autobesity’ on course to worsen air pollution caused by motoring,” The Guardian (8 Sept 2023).

Helena Horton, “Motor emissions could have fallen 30% more without SUV trend, report says,” The Guardian (24 Nov 2023).

“Autobesity: New words – 21 August 2023,” Cambridge Dictionary

Carlton Reid, “Autobesity: Bloated Cars Widen By Two Centimeters Per Year,” Forbes (22 Jan 2024).

Carlton Reid, “Paris Votes To Triple Parking Charges For SUVs,” Forbes (4 Feb 2024).

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