Why do speedometers go so high?
April 4, 2011 1:37 PM Subscribe
Why do car speedometers go so high?
posted by AgentRocket to travel & transportation (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Taking a roadtrip last week, I noticed that my minivan's speedometer goes to 160 mph. That is nuts. I would estimate that for 99 miles out of 100, most drivers do not go over 85 mph, and for 99.9999 miles out of 100 they do not go over 100 mph. I would also estimate that I would need to attach a jet engine to my minivan to get it above 130 mph. That means that over a third of the speedometer is almost completely superfluous.
I can think of a couple of reasons why speedometers might go so high, and Google suggests both reasons the most often: (1) Car companies have figured out that people want to see high numbers on them because it suggests a powerful engine, so they exaggerate the figures a bit for marketing, or (2) seeing the needle at 70 mph right near the middle of the dial is better for attention to the road or psychological justification of cruising speed or something.
But does anyone know the answer, through either a design theory or marketing class, or history of the auto companies, or a consumer study or some other more definitive source?