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      06-27-2006, 02:08 PM   #1
Brookside
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Brilliant Idea or Dud? Smart Car to U.S. in 2008


DaimlerChrysler AG will sell its smallest Smart car, a minicar that fits on top of a regulation pool table, in the U.S. in a bid to help end losses at the unit.

By MARK LANDLER/NewYorkTimes

Are Americans finally ready to get Smart?

DaimlerChrysler To Import Smart Car To U.S. in 2008

FRANKFURT, June 27 — Are Americans finally ready to get Smart?

DaimlerChrysler, which shelved an earlier plan to bring its Smart mini-car brand to the United States, plans to announce on Wednesday that it will introduce the tiny, two-seat vehicle to the American market early in 2008, according to several executives at the company.

The German-American carmaker is calculating that with stubbornly high gasoline prices, mounting concerns about global warming, and waning interest in sport-utility vehicles, consumers in the United States will welcome a car that is no larger than a good-sized riding mower.

"Now is the right time to go to the U.S.," said a senior executive at DaimlerChrysler, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans were not yet public. "The world, and the U.S., has changed in the last two years."

The Smart car has won a hip image in European cities like Rome and Paris, with their serpentine streets and snug parking spaces. It was recently featured in the film "The Da Vinci Code," as well as in the remake of "The Pink Panther," in which it served as the ride of choice for Inspector Jacques Clouseau.

But DaimlerChrysler's management of Smart has been almost as hapless as the fictional French policeman's driving habits. Since the first car rolled off the assembly line in 1998, Smart has lost $3.6 billion, according to analysts. Efforts to expand beyond the two-seat model, known as the Fortwo, have misfired — sometimes undermining Smart's image as a new-age city car in the process.

Among the stranger ideas, now discarded, was to introduce Smart to the United States in the form of a pint-sized sport-utility vehicle. "It's clear that no one is waiting for another S.U.V.," the executive said.

After heavily promoting Smart's arrival at the Detroit auto show in early 2005, DaimlerChrysler decided to hold off on an American rollout. In April 2005, it announced it would eliminate two models — the ill-conceived S.U.V. and a widely derided roadster — and lay off 700 employees.

Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of DaimlerChrysler, considered selling the Smart line to another company, before settling for yet another overhaul last March that trimmed costs further and eliminated the poorly selling four-seat model, the Forfour. That left only the original Fortwo. That is the car — equipped with extra emission-control and safety features — that will be sold in the United States.

DaimlerChrysler plans to market the Smart to drivers in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and other congested cities. The advertising, though still in development, will emphasize fuel efficiency, safety and quality. Smart is, after all, part of the Mercedes-Benz car group.

The DaimlerChrysler executive did not disclose the car's projected gas mileage. On its Web site in Britain, a Smart coupe is listed as getting 46 miles to the gallon in the city and 69 miles to the gallon on the highway.

In Europe, DaimlerChrysler offers a diesel engine as an option for Smart, but in the United States it will offer only a gasoline engine. The company will assemble the car at its plant in Hambach, France.
Smart will not be the only extreme subcompact darting in and out of traffic on American city streets. Honda has had success with its new Fit, as has Toyota with the Yaris. DaimlerChrysler notes, however, that the Fortwo is the only mass-produced car in the world that is less than 3 meters (roughly 9 feet) long.

That makes Smart small enough for two of them to squeeze into a single standard parking space — or for drivers to park it perpendicular to the curb without protruding beyond other parked cars, a practice that is forbidden in some cities.

Some experts said that DaimlerChrysler should promote Smart's European styling and corporate ties to Mercedes.

"They ought to play it like a baby Benz," said Joel Barker, an author and expert on business trends. "The Smart car just has a style to it that these other cars don't have. They don't have the cachet."

DaimlerChrysler believes Smart's experience in Canada, where it has been on sale since 2004, augurs well for the United States. The company sold more than 4,000 Smart cars in Canada in 2005, twice the projected number. The company will not announce a sales target for the United States, though it hopes to exceed the Canadian figures.

To succeed, however, Smart will have to avoid the missteps that have dogged it in Europe. The car's sales here have been held back by its relatively high price — typically around $12,000 for a basic model in Europe — and by its cumbersome dealer network, which had been kept separate from Mercedes dealers. Smart does not plan to use Mercedes dealers in the United States either, but will rely on a separate distribution company instead. In Canada, prices for Smart cars start at the equivalent of about $15,000. American prices have yet to be set.

Analysts who were dubious about Smart's survival six months ago are now ready to give it a chance, even in the land of S.U.V.'s.

"It could be a fancy product for urban markets," said Arndt Ellinghorst, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort in Frankfurt. "But just bringing the Fortwo to the U.S., without a plan beyond that, would not be a sufficient business model. They should use the Fortwo to test the brand."



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      06-27-2006, 04:02 PM   #2
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Actually, this is what's coming, not the Smart Car (For-Four) in the story's illustration.
The SmartCar looks cartoonlike but it'll help traffic and emissions,& free up on-street parking in congested urban areas.
I do wonder if this is going to be sold through Mercedes dealerships and how that will affect people's perceptions
of the exclusivity of the 3-pointed star?
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      07-03-2006, 08:46 AM   #3
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You Call This a Car? We Have Bigger Cockroaches
by Dan Barry/NYT, July 2,2006


THE automaker DaimlerChrysler proudly announced last week that in 2008 it will introduce to the American market something called the Smart car, a vehicle too small to contain even the nimblest gang of Shriner clowns. This car could dangle from its own key ring.

Since part of the marketing campaign celebrates the idea of Smart cars in New York City — they already putter through Paris and Rome — it seems only fair to present a New York first impression, which is: Throw a Smart car in the trunk of an old Cadillac, pump it full of lead and park it in the Meadowlands. Get me?

Here is why. To a New Yorker, it seems that DaimlerChrysler is suggesting that if you do not opt to drive a Smart car, you are something less than smart. That you are — what's the word? — oh, yeah: stupid.

Well, Mr. Daimler-mini-Cooper-wannabe-Chrysler, why don't you climb out of that bumper car of yours so we can talk about this the New York way? With a full-throated public argument that begins with ancestral disparagements and ends with a shared order of kung pao chicken?

But on further reflection, a New Yorker begins to appreciate the Smart car's urban possibilities, though they may not be the ones intended by the manufacturer, who, remember, is calling us dumb or something.

For example, ads show the Smart car zipping into parking places and leaving enough space to mate with another Smart car. But New Yorkers lurking for a parking space would simply pick the Smart car up and deposit it in the nearest receptacle, or maybe take it home for use as a paperweight for takeout menus.

New Yorkers wouldn't even drive Smart cars, except for maybe a few rebels out in Williamsburg looking to burn their trust money. No, New Yorkers would corrupt the very purpose of Smart cars, all those miles per pint notwithstanding. They wouldn't drive them; they would wear them.

That's right: the Smart car as accessory. Soon you'd see them hanging from the necks of well-preserved socialites at a charity ball for the Women Unable to Frown Foundation (WUFF). Then as earrings, cuff links, tie clasps — even cellphones. Just talk into the exhaust pipe.

After that, the deluge.

Russell Crowe will throw a Smart car at a hotel clerk.

Lindsay Lohan will tip a nightclub hostess with a Smart car for seating her close enough to Paris Hilton to stir some Page Six ink.

Manny Ramirez will hit a home run at Yankee Stadium and fans will toss the ball back onto the field — inside a Smart car.

Thus devalued, the Smart car will become a party favor at bar mitzvahs and middle school graduation parties, where kids will whine that they'd rather have an iPod.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will ban the placement of Smart cars on subway seats. The Department of Transportation will dedicate work crews to dislodge Smart cars from potholes. Pet owners will use Smart cars as chew toys at the dog run in Washington Square Park.

Then, one day, a sanitation worker will find another Smart car in the trash, dust it off and take it home to Brooklyn. He'll grab his fishing pole, head down to Sheepshead Bay and use it as a lure. Pretty smart, huh?
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      07-04-2006, 09:03 PM   #4
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Judged on reactions I have gotten from the car in europe, by americans, I do not really see the point. BUT, for the sake of fuel economy, I would not mind seeing some darting around....
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      07-27-2006, 07:17 AM   #5
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It's being sold in Canada through Mercedes dealerships. It has proven to be quite popular, so far. Considering its limitations (2 seats, barely any luggage), they are surprisingly common.

May be a good second car for some, particularly in an urban setting.
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      08-14-2007, 08:43 PM   #6
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Americans are not good for smart cars!!! We're too egotistical to drive little cars around! What macho guy wants to drive around a little wussy car???
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      08-14-2007, 08:58 PM   #7
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Geez a diesel Smart getting 70 mpg around town - I could do that as a grocery getter - winter car. Especially if it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Oh - overlooked the 'what macho guy' - that doesn't include me then. ; -)

Here's an idea of how that looks to an American. The 'boss' and the 'under-boss' making fun of a micro car in Paris a few years back.
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      08-14-2007, 11:31 PM   #8
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The MINI showed that Americans will buy small cars. Especially with the way some people are reacting to gas prices, the Smart will be a great car for them. I cant imagine having a car that cant beat 11 seconds to 60 but that is me, and clearly people dont mind in their Prius.
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      08-15-2007, 07:37 AM   #9
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I'm not terribly impressed with the specs I've seen on the US SMART. The gas mileage isn't all that outstanding (reportedly low 50s), IMO you might as well buy the new '08 Jetta TDI and have close to the same mileage, 4 doors, luggage space, and loads more power.

Where the SMARTs really made sense was in Paris; they could park almost anywhere, and really looked at home zipping through the congested streets. So maybe in New York, LA, etc they will become "smart." But here, in Cowtown OH where everyone lives in the 'burbs... I'd rather have the TDI.

Or the 123d!
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      08-15-2007, 07:56 AM   #10
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For the US, the B series seems to make a lot more sense to me. All I think of with the Smart is how it would look after a run-in with an Excursion. Besides, there's no manny, so I wouldn't be in the market, which really should be the most important factor after all. :tongue:
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      08-15-2007, 07:11 PM   #11
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They make sense in cities, saw plenty in Paris this May. I think that Penske will have another dud on their hands, remember their importing of the Rovers?
If MB offered the B-series (as they do in Canada), I would go for a diesel version. The Penske Smart car will not be offered in diesel format and thus will not make much sense from a practical standpoint, although I am sure some folks will buy one as a fashion statement.
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      08-15-2007, 10:32 PM   #12
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I dont know how well one of the slowest vehicles on earth will fare in the US. I imagine it could be useful being strictly limited to city use, but theres no way in hell I can picture that thing on the freeway. The size of the 1-series is small enough as it is..
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      10-25-2008, 02:40 AM   #13
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I love the SMART car....yes, I said it!!!!

Ok, I'll say it......



I would 100% drive a smart car, but it would HAVE to be like this one---->



I actually really need this.

It might even make 11 seconds!!
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      10-25-2008, 04:18 AM   #14
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Experienced my first Smart-Car sighting the other day, I drove around the thing like an idiot, thinking all the while, "I must look like an idiot, or, a crook." Tiny little thing it is...

Thanks for diggin' up this post, and, also, thanks Brookside, wherever you are...:biggrin::wink:
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      10-25-2008, 07:22 AM   #15
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I drove the HMS Motorsport Smart Car for well over a hundred miles, and with the slushie transmission, is anemic, and shifts take seconds to complete, with a floating lag between shifts that pulls you forward in your seatbelt, before being (mildly) popped back into the seat cushion.

A few disconcerting things are stoppi ng at a red light, and having a car stop behind you, while you're looking in the rearview mirror... Because the rear of the car is right behind your seat, it looks like they are coming through you. The other thing is that when I back up, I normally put my right hand on the passenger headrest and look out the back window. I can still do that, but the window is inches awat from your face, and it goes straight down to the bumper from there. Just would have to get used to that, I guess...

A few "good" things were that then driving it, it didn't feel tiny inside. There's surprisingly more interior driving/cockpit room than you would think. Secondly, I stopped to get gas in it (probably a rare thing in a Smart Car), but I had a crowd of girls asking me questions.. cute girls. (good and bad, because it also made me think I was in a chick car)

Quick phonecam pic of me following the HMS truck/racecar.
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      10-25-2008, 11:13 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surname View Post
Experienced my first Smart-Car sighting the other day, I drove around the thing like an idiot, thinking all the while, "I must look like an idiot, or, a crook." Tiny little thing it is...

Thanks for diggin' up this post, and, also, thanks Brookside, wherever you are...:biggrin::wink:
At least if you wanted to steal it all you would need is 2 burly men. They could lift it up and walk away with it!
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      10-25-2008, 11:21 AM   #17
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I'm taking delivery of my mom's 2008 Smart Passion today in yellow/black. She ordered it back in Feb and we just got word of an "orphan" that meets her specs that she ordered. Will report back to this thread with pics of our Pikachu lol
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      10-25-2008, 11:50 AM   #18
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To be honest, this thread (mostly the articles) really puts Americans in a bad light. What is wrong with a small car?

This is a small nimble car for use in cities. As a car number two this is great!

When DaimlerChrysler designed it, the spec were: "Room for two persons and two cases of beer" (48 boxes).

When you go to work everyday, why do you need a bigger car? What do you really bring with you everyday?

Next time you are stuck in traffic, imagine that everybody in front of you drove cars no larger than a smart. A smart is under 3meters long. A large SUV/truck about 6meters. A jam with 1000 cars wil be 3 kilometers longer with SUVs than entirely smart-cars.


(Disclaimer: This is the 1addict forum. The 1 is small car, so 1-owners is off the hook :smile
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      10-25-2008, 12:09 PM   #19
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That is one interesting looking car....
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      10-25-2008, 12:19 PM   #20
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This is exactly why I'll take my smart "Demon-ed out" like in the video. Try saying that car is not a man's car.....HA!!!!

Although, my tire budget will probably skyrocket!!!!

It's ok, I like ramen noodles.
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      10-25-2008, 02:16 PM   #21
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It's a cute looking car, but Mercedes needs to step up and replace the tranny - it's crap.
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      10-25-2008, 08:40 PM   #22
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I'm claiming ignorance on this one:

Why not buy a Honda Civic. These cars arent going for much less. Trust me, my Father and I went by the local dealership. The Civic gets the same or better fuel economy while having more space.

Once again, forgive my ignorance. If this thing got 50mpg+ then I'd say hell yeaaah!! But it dosent. On another note, I wish the current Smart car looked like the one pictured above.
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