Monday

Mercedes Smart Car Coming to US

DaimlerChrysler has announced that it plans to sell the Mercedes 2 seater, 60 mpg "Smart Car" in the US next year. Only 8 feet long and 5 feet wide, the Smart Car has been the darling of the Europe's fashion-conscious younger crowd since they came out in 1998.

It's no wonder. The Smart Car takes up less than half the space of the normal parking spot, gets better mileage than any gas engine legally running on US roads, and is just about as perfect as it can get for short trips and people who care about mileage. It has a lot going for it and not much to detract. Top that off with the Mercedes badge, and you've likely got a winner.

I have to admit to some bias here. I saw a couple of these in Europe a few years back and was absolutely stunned at the styling, the size, the roomy interior. It was unquestionably the coolest thing on the road. I would have bought one right then if I had a suitcase big enough to get it in and sneak past customs!

There was some favorable press about the Smart Car a few years back, when plans were afoot to import them to Canada and then the US, but the plan has taken longer to come to fruition than expected. A California company, Zap, has been in the "energy efficient transportation" business since 1994 and already has dealerships scattered across the country (primarily on the West Coast), apparently ready to begin selling the Smart Cars in short order, with more dealer applications pending. If there was a dealer near me, I'd be over there buying one right now!

Mercedes tried to launch a four seater version in Europe but sales have been dismally disappointing for the normally luxury level marque. The car is powered by a three cylinder turbo charged engine and DaimlerChrysler has high hopes for US sales. But it's the styling and size that makes people look twice. That probably had something to do with the Smart Car being used in The DaVinci Code movie in a marvelous chase scene thru tiny streets and tight traffic in Paris.

The odds are you won't see the Smart Car on our Lemon Law Recalls Page anytime soon after it starts selling in the US, I'd bet. In our experience, people who love their cars tend to complain much, much less when faced with defects. So unless DaimlerChrysler or Mercedes really blow it with the US market modifications, a lot of city dwellers will likely tolerate all but the worst of defects.

DC's decision may be well timed---coming as it does right when US consumers are more fuel price conscious than they have been at any time since the oil embargo of the 70's. While the Smart Car is certainly something to be seen, what I really, really want to get an up close and personal look at is The Roadster Finale Edition ... sporty looks, 6 speed transmission, lots of options and leather interior. Of course, you do have to give up something to get those great looks. It only gets 44 mpg (or was that mpkm?). You can download the 1 meg + brochure here for more details.