Perhaps we didn't need a study to tell us that cars are getting bigger; our eyesight is enough to realise how much mass vehicles are putting on each and every year. SUVs, in particular, are the worst offenders in Europe, where pickup trucks are not as prevalent as in the United States. New research highlights the need for regulators to address the issue of increasingly bulky cars.

The European Federation for Transport and Environment, a European umbrella for non-governmental organisations according to Wikipedia, has examined the numbers. The data reveals that newly sold passenger vehicles are becoming one centimetre (0.4 inches) wider every couple of years. Consequently, these increasingly fatter cars are becoming too big for roads and parking spots on the Old Continent.

Transport & Environment SUV study

The average new car now exceeds 180 centimetres (70.8 inches) in width, approximately the size of a typical parking space on Europe's streets. This effectively narrows the usable driving lane, posing a particular challenge in historic towns with narrower streets. The study highlights examples of notably wide vehicles, and unsurprisingly, they are all SUVs. For instance, the BMW X5, X6, X7, and XM all exceed 200 centimetres (78.7 inches) in width, while the Mercedes GLS, Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne, and Volkswagen Touareg are just below that threshold.

To be fair, we shouldn't put the blame entirely on SUVs because regular cars have gotten bigger over the decades. A popular car in Europe, the Skoda Octavia is technically a compact car, but it stretches at 4.68 metres (184.6 inches) long and 1.82 metres (72 in) wide. The best-selling vehicle ever in Europe, the Volkswagen Golf, is 4.28 metres (168.7 inches) long whereas the original Golf was only 3.7 metres (145.9 inches) long.

The continuous growth isn't solely due to the demand for more spacious cars; it's also influenced by increasing safety regulations. One easily noticeable example is the widened pillars in today's vehicles compared to a few decades ago. With regulators mandating more safety features, automakers need the extra space to accommodate the necessary hardware. With size going up, so is weight, which has negative repercussions on the car's efficiency by increasing fuel consumption and emissions, but that's a different story.

One of the driving forces behind this concerning trend is the SUV. People can't seem to get enough of them, and automakers happily oblige. Additionally, there is a safety concern, as a study conducted by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety revealed some worrying results. Crash data recorded in Belgium from 2017 until 2021 showed that raising a vehicle's front by 10 per cent increased the risk of a pedestrian or bicyclist fatality by 30 per cent.

The solution to stop this so-called "autobesity"? The European Federation for Transport and Environment believes the trend will not end unless there will be regulatory action by European lawmakers.