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Speedometer top speed often exceeds reality

February 28, 2013 • Business


In a Feb. 11, 2013 photo, the speedometer of a 2013 Ford Fusion displayed at the Bob Maxey dealership in Detroit. Although current cars with high-horsepower engines can come close to the top speedometer speeds, most are limited by engine control computers. That’s because the tires can overheat and fail at higher speeds. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT (AP) — The speedometer on the Toyota Yaris says the tiny car can go 140 miles per hour.

In reality, the bulbous subcompact’s 106-horsepower engine and automatic transmission can’t push it any faster than 109.

So why do the Yaris — and most other cars sold in the U.S. — have speedometers that show top speeds they can’t possibly reach?

The answer has deep roots in an American culture that loves the rush of driving fast. The automakers’ marketing departments are happy to give people the illusion that their family car can travel at speeds rivaling a NASCAR racer. And companies often use one speedometer type in various models across the world, saving them money.

But critics say the ever-higher numbers are misleading. Some warn they create a safety concern, daring drivers to push past freeway speed limits that are 65 to 75 mph in most states.

“You reach a point where it becomes ridiculous,” says Larry Dominique, a former Nissan product chief who now is executive vice president of the TrueCar.com auto pricing website. “Eighty percent plus of the cars on the road are not designed for and will not go over 110 mph.”

Last year, speedometer top speeds for new versions of the mainstream Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu were increased from 120 or 140 mph to 160, which approaches speeds on some NASCAR tracks. The speedometer on the Honda Accord already topped out at 160. All are midsize family haulers, the most popular Login to read more

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