We did it. Mitra and I cleaned out whatever change we could find under our sofa cushions, unsealed our loose change jar and canceled the extended service plan our bank was charging every month to “maintain” an empty bank account in order to put a $99 deposit on a new car!
Well, it actually isn’t even a down payment but a “token” to get our name on the waiting list (rumored to be closing on 20,000 others also) for the new Smart Fortwo. After about 4 years of talking about it, planning then scraping those plans at least twice and changing their minds on multiple occasions, the folks at DaimlerChrysler (soon expected to drop the Chrysler part of that unholy marriage) are finally committing to bring their Smart car to USA in 2008.
They also made Roger Penske even richer by granting an exclusive marketing plan to his United Auto Group chain of dealerships. This, of course, is done to control the market on the new car and maximizing their profits, only possible by holding sale prices as well as future parts and services revenues by monopolizing their dealer network under one non-competing ownership.
As for the car, it will be the slightly larger, slightly improved (transmission and steering) version of the older car released in Europe in 1998 as part of a joint venture between Switzerland’s trendy Swatch watch manufacturers as designers and (then) DaimlerBenz, parent company of Mercedes-Benz for manufacturing and distribution expertise.
I have driven a few versions of various Smart cars and just adore them. They are not only cute (which is a big selling point) but are surprisingly roomy (important for anyone of my size,) very efficient (40+ mpg for the US version is expected) and surprisingly safe. Yes, I said safe, and that is despite their tiny size. The myth that larger cars are safer is just that, a myth. In actual testing, Smarts always ranked extremely well, even at times better than their much larger counterparts. But I can’t discuss those details as I am a one-time employee of the parent company, still bound by confidentiality terms that covers much information I was privileged to in exchange for maintaining trade secrets.
What I can share however, is what is already out there. Including this video:
Remember that this off center head-on collision is perhaps the most extreme type of a crash you could get into, particularly at the high speeds this test is being conducted at. There is little doubt that occupants of any car involved in such scenario will suffer serious harm, so the question becomes how to maximize the absorptions of the deadly force created by the crash on the automobile itself in order to minimize the impact on its human cargo. Something the Smart is obviously very capable of doing.
There are more public videos like it, including one involving a head-on crash against a solid barrier and another one, facing the tiny Smart off against a very large and very heavy Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Even in that test, which flips the Smart car on its side, the injuries to dummies inside both cars are remarkably similar, considering the larger car stays almost solid and is acknowledged to be one of the safest vehicles on the road today, if not THE safest one.
Another amazing part (and the primary reason we want one,) is that the Smart Fourtwo’s well-equipped Passion version for U.S. is going to carry a price tag in the $13,000 range, brand new! About a quarter of the car in above video or at least 1/8 of an average S-Class! The base model will be less than $12,000 here.
Okay, now that I am done with my best car sales pitch on this blog, go here with your own $99 if you also want one! Maybe Roger Penske will read this and forward me a referral fee to cover cost of hosting the eyeranian or at least to replace what is missing from our sofa now! Then again, I know the man (also worked for him at one point!) and will not be holding my breath for any possibility of such miracle.