JAMIE LAREAU

Automakers should consider Fido

Jamie LaReau covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive NewsJamie LaReau covers Ford Motor Co. for Automotive News
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My 100-pound black Labrador retriever loves a car ride.

But I didn't realize how dangerous it was for both of us until a safety engineer lectured me about G-forces.

In a 35-mph accident, he said, a 100-pound dog becomes 3,000 lbs. of force flying around a car's cabin. A 20-pound animal? It's like a couple of NFL linebackers slamming into you.

A recent newsletter by University of Detroit Mercy college marketing professor Michael Bernacchi, says about 40 percent of U.S. households own a dog. And 33 percent of U.S. households own at least two cats.

That's a lot of potential car buyers who might want built-in safety features to protect pets and people in a vehicle. They also might want amenities such as fabric that can be easily cleaned or a ramp so an animal can easily climb in and out of a vehicle.

Some automakers, like Honda and Saab, have offered some pet-friendly features in limited vehicles or for aftermarket purchase. I realize my pet-loving friends and I could buy seat harnesses at stores. The reality is we seldom use them even if we have them. If those features came factory installed, however, we'd have no excuse but to use them.

That's especially true given that Bernacchi's research revealed one other important fact: More than half of U.S. pet owners consider their pets to be family members.

Isn't that reason enough to develop -- and market -- optional pet-safety packages?

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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