Car makers bellyache about obese drivers

 Overweight drivers are not only piling on the inches around their waists – their cars are a foot wider now to cope with their obesity as well.

Not only are cars expanding at the same rate as their owners, but several manufacturers are reinforcing handles and fittings to take the strain of the extra weight they have to carry.

Mercedes has revealed grab handles above doors are stronger to bear the weight of heavier drivers and passengers.

Honda has added two inches to the width of seats to cradle bigger buttocks.

Porsche designers are working on steering columns that rise electronically when the vehicle stops to let larger drivers get out more easily.

Obesity is not just a problem for car makers – Yorkshire Ambulance Service has spent more than £10 million on special vehicles to carry overweight patients.

Doctors reckon by 2030, more than 11 million people will be classed as obese and that illness related to weight problems, like high blood pressure and diabetes, cost the country £20 billion a year in lost productivity.

BMW has disclosed that they have recruited a team of 800 drivers to run tests on how cars handle when carrying extra heavy drivers and passengers.

“People are getting more obese and we want to find out how that limits their range of motion and how our vehicles can adapt to the changing needs of our customers,” said a BMW spokesman.

“We know that a lot of overweight and obese people have problems in daily life, and in the car this starts with getting in and getting out. In general, these aren’t sporty people. We already have things like the parking distance control, which shows obstacles on a screen when you are reversing.

“For someone who can find it difficult to turn 140 degrees to look behind them, they can now just look at the screen.

“The study will mean we can look at things more scientifically and build a car that at least 95 per cent of people can use.”

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