Larger cars have more room and can accomodate more people. Most American families have more than one child or carpool. Also, a larger car implies a sense of luxury, and a large portion of the American dream is having high priced material possessions.
One reason that most people give are that larger cars feel safer and are more available, but I think the answer is much more primal than that. Big cars and big engines make people feel subconsciously powerful.
One study by a psychologist found that 100% of women in it’s sample group had increased levels of testosterone (the hormone in men AND women that sexually arouses) when listening to a Maserati engine compared to a compact engine, which actually decreased hormone levels. I think it’s safe to say that both men and women have a very strong desire to be in control of something big.
It’s pretty much a huge pissing contest and Americans like the fact that they can afford to win.
First of all, this is a generalization/myth that doesn’t hold true in many parts of America. Americans are extremely diverse.
Second of all, a HEAVIER car (not necessarily a longer or wide car) is safer according to all the statistics from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Also, a car higher off the ground is safer than a car lower to the ground. So it’s a matter of a sort of “arms race” of heavier cars to hopefully better survive potential collisions. This effect will always be around as long as American highways are so unsafe. (Nearly as many people get killed on American roads in a year as American soldiers died in the Vietnam War.) If we ever see a day where technology eliminates 90% of highway fatalities, it’ll be a lot of easier for many people to justify smaller cars.
Americans don’t, on average, have larger families than people living in the rest of the world. If you see large cars on the road in America, you can bet they’re typically occupied by a single person. And all that extra room is more likely to be carrying stuff purchased from big box stores, home building supplies, furniture, consumer electronics, recreational equipment, bicycles, etc.
Another benefit of a large car is that it serves as a social conduit for transporting groups of friends, family members, and children to and from a single destination in a country that is mostly designed for the automobile and has very little public transportation. So think of a large car in the suburbs as a miniature shuttle bus of sorts.
Also, Americans spend large amounts of time in their cars, because our entire society is designed around this. For example, it’s difficult to find housing in many downtowns. So you end up living where houses are built, typically far from urban centers, so you typically commute long distances to work. So a car for an American is often a second home. A larger car means more room for the passengers to spread out. A larger car means more room for (yes) food and water supplies, (yes) spare clothes, and other necessities.
In American big cities, most people do not even own cars. While it may have been true in the past, that American’s preferred big cars, time are changing. Many Americans are working to lower their dependence on oil. It is just a generalization at this point.
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