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Shaggy Car Specifications Bug (Dog?) Writer

Comparative vehicle specs don't allow for useful comparisons.

by on Sep.08, 2010

Cubic feet is nice, but it won’t tell you if Grandma’s table, flipped upside down, will slide into the cargo area and allow the tailgate to be latched.

My father, a second-generation veteran journalist, admonished me as a youth, “Never believe what you read in a newspaper.”

It certainly seems doubtful that you can believe what you read in the website-posted specifications for some automobiles, or even such regulated communications as the new-car price stickers, as I discovered a while back trying to crank out a couple of stories which depended for sense upon comparative vehicle specifications.

Let me give you some examples. Through the machinations of government, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues annual fuel economy guides for passenger cars and light trucks. It classifies the vehicles in various size classes: Two-seater cars, Minicompacts under 85 cubic feet passenger plus cargo volume, Subcompacts between 85 and 99, Compacts between 100 and 109, Midsize 110 to 119 and Large, 120 or more.

Fly Specking?

Basically, it seems to draw its class distinctions from sister agency Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which in turn relies on Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) guidelines. However, you might call these numbers ping-pong ball count – as in how many balls it would take to fill up a car – and the size classifications are about as useful.