How fat are Americans getting? Think of that old joke: When he (or she) sits around the house, he really sits around the house.
One need look no further than the use of plus-size cyber-mannequins to help U.S. vehicle designers create compatible car interiors.
Nearly one in three Americans meets the American Medical Association's classification of ``obese.'' In 1962, according to a Ford Motor Co. newsletter, a woman weighing 199 pounds ranked in the 95th percentile for weight and had an average hip width of 17.1 inches. By 2000, women in the 95th percentile weighed 27 pounds more-226 pounds-and their hip width grew 2.6 inches. During that same period, those females grew an inch taller.
A man in 1962 weighing 217 pounds ranked in the 95th percentile for weight and had an average hip width of 15.9 inches. By 2000, men in that percentile were 27 pounds heavier-244 pounds-while their hip width grew 1.3 inches and their height increased by 1.2 inches.
Ford has developed what it's calling an industry-first set of nine human computer-aided design (CAD) virtual mannequins aimed at representing the population's more extreme body dimensions. The company said it is using the CAD models to make sure its vehicles meet customer wants, such as large amounts of storage space in front-seat consoles, while accommodating the greatest range of body types. (What about more holders for super-sized soft drink cups and french fries?)
The car maker's ergonomists, for example, used the virtual mannequins to evaluate the cabin of the new 2007 Ford Edge, assessing its ability to comfortably accommodate a variety of body shapes and sizes.
``Our customer population is changing,'' said Lucy K. White, a Ford ergonomics researcher. ``But with virtual mannequins, and not cyber stick figures, we're able to properly represent our physically diverse customer base-from petite to plus-size-and better size up vehicle interiors to fit their needs.''
The statistics, and the bases for the nine virtual models, come from the U.S. government. Starting in the 1960s, and every decade thereafter, government researchers gather basic data about its citizens-including height, weight and a few other body dimensions.
The firm said the mannequins can be positioned in and around vehicles in various postures to examine their interaction with the environment. (See the mannequin holding a triple-decker cheeseburger while attempting to inhale a Slurpee and operate the car radio.)
``Because of increased obesity, more of today's motorists are grappling with tighter fits around steering wheels, armrests and in seats,'' explained Gary Rupp, a Ford ergonomics research engineer. ``Our goal is to leverage this technology to make our vehicles more comfortable-and more ergonomically appealing-for the full gamut of customers, including people of size.''
Translation: horizontally and/or vertically challenged people who love to eat.
He always calls 'em as he sees 'em. That's what's so refreshing about Roland Lesieur, treasurer of Nashua, N.H.-based wholesaler Maynard & Lesieur Inc.
In a recent edition of his stream-of-consciousness column in the company's newsletter, Mr. Lesieur noted that his largest supplier of tires, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., ``isn't going to like my comments on their new company logo.'' He goes on to say Maynard & Lesieur ``recently had to update our old Cooper sign on our main garage with the new logo, (shown above) and it's not visible from a distance.
``It's OK if you are in the yard, but in my opinion, the brass has relatives in the sign business.''
Mr. Lesieur added that, in his humble opinion, ``the Goodyear, Kelly, Dunlop and Michelin logos all look better from a distance.''
This, that 'n other stuff
The next crisis?-That's what the New York Post asked recently, referring to male anorexia.
The news item in the Miami Herald said the Post ``spilled the beans'' on a story in Best Life magazine in which 51-year-old actor Dennis Quaid talks about his battle with the deadly eating disorder, which he labeled ``manorexia.'' Catchy.
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``Pull over''-You just got a screamin' new ride, where ya headed? Not Disney World, for sure.
An AutoWeek reader almost got a free trip to the pokey. He told the magazine, a sister pub of Tire Business, that he'd just taken delivery of a new Ford GT when, moments later, a police officer pulled him over. Why? In the cop's words, ``That's a badass car... I just didn't think it was street legal.''
The driver only had the car's title for less than eight minutes. The odo read 1.1 miles.
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One size squeezes all-Congressional arguments about gasoline prices and fuel economy are notorious for their tedium.
But occasionally, reported Automotive News, there's a nice turn of a phrase. Take Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who's an opponent of any dramatic increase in the corporate annual fuel economy (CAFE) standard for new cars. Expecting such a rule to solve the nation's energy problems, he said at a recent Capitol Hill hearing, is like believing you can ``make a fat person skinny by mandating smaller pants sizes.''
How about smaller pizza sizes?
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Fugedaboudit-Last year BaBing Inc. released a job search engine on the Internet linking more than 4,000 college campuses to employers across the nation.
Tony Soprano wants to make it perfectly clear that endeavor is in no way to be confused with his friendly, ahem, family-oriented ``Badabing'' watering hole. Got it?
Don't use retreads
In the inimitable fashion of David Letterman's ``Top 10'' lists, the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB) has issued its very own ``Top 10 Reasons Owner Operators and Truck and Bus Fleets Don't Buy Retreaded Tires.''
But before you tear up your membership card and send the pieces to Managing Director Harvey Brodsky, be aware that TRIB qualifies the following by saying, ``Sound ridiculous? That's because it is! There is simply no good reason not to use retreaded tires on truck and buses.''
That somewhat takes the fun out of the following:
10. The trucking and busing industries in North America may have purchased more retreads than new replacement tires last year, but why should I have to play follow-the-leader just to be successful?
9. Sure I know the really successful fleets with good tire programs run as many as two and three retreads for every new tire, but I'm just a little guy and I don't want to make as much money as they do. The taxes would kill me!
8. When I buy a really good apple, I throw it away after only enjoying about one-third of it. Why shouldn't I be satisfied getting only a one-third return on my tire investment?
7. The new-tire manufacturing companies need my money more than I do.
6. My telephone psychic says I should only buy new tires.
5. Don't confuse me with the facts.
4. My brother-in-law told me about his bad experiences with ``recaps'' back in 1956.
3. I took a vow of poverty.
2. I like spending more money than I need to for tires.
1. I drive a commercial vehicle for a hobby. Money means nothing to me!
All we got out of our psychic was: ``Keep on truckin'.''
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk