If you jump in an economy or luxury car from the fifties, you might find the interior to be suited more for slimmer figures, back when obesity wasn’t really an issue. Jump to today and all marques are dealing with a common problem: obesity and to a slightly lesser extent, height. The auto industry wasn’t designing for the larger population in the ’80s either; I have a 6’ 6” friend who cannot shut the driver’s door in my BMW E30 because his legs will not fit. The issue isn’t limited to cockpit size as many obese people have difficulties turning 140 degrees to look behind them while parking. So manufacturers have invented ultrasonic parking and rear-view cameras to in part, solve the problem.
According to the Lancet, 11 million people in England will be classified as obese by 2030; already over 60 percent of English adults are obese with one third of 10-11-year-olds as well. Resulting from these sorts of studies, Mercedes has strengthened grab handles to deal with greater weights. Honda has increased the width of their seats by 2 inches and will be fitting larger buttons to upcoming models as a result of what some may call “sausage fingers.”
BMW is taking a slightly different approach, recruiting some 800 obese people to participate in a study dubbed “Plump My Ride” so that BMW can “find out how [obesity] limits [the customers’] range of motion and how our vehicles can adapt to the changing needs of our customers.” said Ralf Kaiser, a member of the firm’s ergonomics team.
Even Porsche are fitting steering wheels that rise out of the way of larger thighs after the engine has been shut off for easier egress on cars such as the Panamera. “The study will mean we can look at things more scientifically and build a car that at least 95% of people can use,” summarized Kaiser.
– By: Sawyer Sutton