Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Smart Car is coming!

DaimlerChrysler AG will team with former auto racer and businessman Roger Penske to sell a funky and fuel-efficient two-seat car in the U.S. starting early in 2008, the automaker’s CEO said Wednesday.

The decision — announced by DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche during an appearance in Detroit — is a watershed moment for the company’s Smart car unit, which has not posted a profit since it was formed in 1998.

Penske’s United Auto Group Inc. will be responsible for picking potential dealers and developing and maintaining a Smart vehicle dealership network throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It will focus mainly on highly populated areas and have 30 to 50 dealerships, Penske said.

Smart will sell the next generation of its “fortwo” model, which has been popular in Europe. It gets an average of 40 miles per gallon in combined city-highway driving and will sell for less than $15,000. The company says it can get up to 69 mpg on the highway.

This is great news. I have driven both a ForTwo (shown above) and a ForFour in Europe. We got two adults and two big suitcases into a car so small you can park sideways where other cars have to park parallel. The Tahoe/Hummer/Bulgemobile crowd will dismiss them as toys, and they wouldn't make sense in Wyoming, but here in the Bay Area it is the perfect commuter car. San Francisco has literally thousands of parking spots between driveways that normal cars can't take, so Smart cars will be able to park damn near anywhere.

Roger Penske is no Malcolm Bricklin. He wouldn't be doing this unless he smelled money, and he has pretty impressive track record. So I think this is a good thing pretty much all the way around.

I'll be plunking down a deposit as soon as I can.


Blogger Dr. Bloor said...

Looks like roger may indeed smell money:

I may wait for the cabrio myself.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't they make sense in Wyoming? When you have 10 times as far to drive, then you'd be saving 10x as much fuel. Most of Wyoming is paved, no?


7:48 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...


You are certainly right that longer distance driving means greater savings. And maybe someday we can get Red America to consider cars like these. But long-legged highway cruisers they ain't. If I had to log major freeway time today at speed and in bad weather, I would want somthing a bit bigger and quieter -- even a prius might work.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How are they in the snow?

1:24 PM  
Blogger Smart_AJ said...

The Smart Cars are already available in the US from ZAP ZP (NYSE). A California based company who is also planning on brining a Brazilian made car to the US, the Obvio! 828, that is a hybrid that can run on any combination of ethanol and gas. Zap is also the only car company who is selling a Chinese manufactured car in the US the 100% electric Xebra city car.

3:25 PM  
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