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Ever-wider: why large SUVs don’t fit, and what to do about it

The case for European law-makers to review the maximum width of light duty vehicles.

22 January 2024

Also available in Italian  

Spurred on by rising sales of large SUVs, newly-sold passenger vehicles (i.e. cars) are getting one centimetre wider every 2 years (see figure 1 below). All the indications are that this trend will continue without regulatory action by European law-makers. The current EU maximum width applied to all vehicles, 255 cm, was enacted to limit the expansion of buses and trucks in the mid 1990s – and was never truly intended for cars. The limit fails to contain the trend to ever-wider SUVs (including pick-up trucks), and there is a compelling case to review it.

The average width of new cars in the EU now exceeds 180 cm, and around half of sales now exceed this figure. 180 cm is a key threshold because it is a frequently-used minimum specification for the width of on-street parking in Europe. When parked in spaces 180 cm wide, vehicles exceeding this width simply don’t fit. Vehicles which exceed their parking bay take space from those using the footpath, from vehicles moving along the road, or from both the footpath and the road.

Read more: Ever-wider: why large SUVs don’t fit, and what to do about it

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