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Why Are Cars Getting Bigger?

By Phil Gardner | December 22, 2016


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Good question, I’m glad I asked.

Why Are Cars Getting Bigger?
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I’m sure I am not the only person who often finds themselves purposely parking a good distance away from the Tesco Extra entrance. I head to the most distant sections, where there are more bays available and fewer people walking between parked cars. In my eyes this is logical and sensible. 

On the rare occasion that I do dare venture into the urban war zone that is the first few rows of spaces, I often find myself not bothering with certain bays, particularly if there are towering SUVs on either side or poorly parked cars overhanging the white lines. Audi A6s, frequently.

This isn’t because I can’t park. I can, I promise. 

I tend to do this because I know that once I’ve aligned my car centrally in the bay, my door isn’t going to open so much as to let through a small draught, never mind have me squeeze through. Over the last 5 years this has become increasingly worse and I know exactly who is to blame. Nissan. More specifically, their Qashqai.

The Qashqai sparked the Crossover craze in 2007 and the affordable SUV segment has snowballed to the point of avalanche proportions. Every man and his dog has some form of SUV these days - which is ideal for transporting said dog.

Last year the Qashqai outsold the (not very) Mini, the Volkswagen Polo, the Audi A3 and even the Vauxhall Astra. People are buying bigger cars by the bucket-load.

I’ve done some thinking and I’ve found, what I think, are the three main reasons why people are buying bigger cars and, in turn, why cars themselves are getting bigger.

  • Desirability - It’s almost innate to think that bigger means better in this world. Even before crossovers came along, the cream of societies crop was scooting around in big Range Rovers. Looking down on us peasants in our hatchbacks, laughing, while basking in their superior road presence and forward visibility. This desirability has now become more commonly attainable, more on this in the point below....
  • Finance - Over 80% of cars bought brand-new in 2015 were on finance deals. Whether it is a personal contract plan or a lease, buyers aren’t bothering with lump-sum outgoings anymore. Instead, consumers prefer paying for their car monthly and as the market has become viciously competitive, the deals have come right down. Your traditional VW Golf buyer is likely to be looking at cars like the Nissan Juke, the Mazda CX3 and so on. They won’t be paying more for these big crossovers than they would a Golf either.
  • Safety - Lastly, if more and more people are buying bigger cars, those of us left in smaller cars are significantly less likely to come out on top in the unfortunate event of a collision. As the rest of the country bulk-up their motors, it would be wise for family buyers to do so too as SUVs are generally a lot safer in the unfortunate event of a crash. Logical, really. We’re also living in a health & safety generation, where we have to be told via tannoy that stepping to that dark gaping void between the train and the platform is probably a bad idea.

 EU regulations have also demanded things like ABS, traction control, airbags and crumple zones are all obligatory on new cars, and these things take up space, lots of it. Cars have been bulking, and they’re bigger now.

Worry not! There is some good news. Supermarkets are now hoping to increase the width of their bays to cater for SUVs and, naturally, GreenPeace is opposing it. They (falsely) believe that wider parking bays will encourage people to buy bigger cars which are, as they put:‘gas guzzlers.’ 

GreenPeace chief scientist Doug Parr is quoted as saying:

"Making more space for large gas guzzlers at the expense of other cars is the opposite of what we should be doing."

"We need to rethink our transport infrastructure so that those who make the right choice for our health and the environment are rewarded, not penalised."

Tell that to the man in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, achieving over 80mpg from his (road-tax exempt) petrol-electric hybrid SUV, who is having a diesel Volkswagen Polo owner choke his lungs with fumes while smashing his door against the PHEVs lovely paintwork...

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