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Speedometer top speed often exceeds reality

8:17 PM, Feb. 28, 2013  |  Comments
The speedometer of a 2013 Ford Fusion displayed at the Bob Maxey dealership in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The speedometer of a 2013 Ford Fusion displayed at the Bob Maxey dealership in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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The speedometer on the Toyota Yaris says the tiny car can go 140 mph.

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.

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