By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Cities
Smart USA has reported an astounding 40 percent annual sales drop last year of its Smart Fortwo coupe. Can the Smart car get back on track?
The diminutive Smart car may be king of parallel parking spaces across the country, but its parent company is hurting in a down economy.
Smart USA has reported an astounding 40 percent annual sales drop last year of its Smart Fortwo coupe, with just 278 vehicles sold in January.
That's down from 864 in December, itself a more than 84 percent drop from the previous year's December sales of 1,776 vehicles.
Sold in the U.S. by Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, Smart cars are favored by urban dwellers who are short on space but need inexpensive four-wheeled transportation (the Fortwo coupe starts at $11,990).
Despite a trendy reputation, the tiny vehicles have been criticized for their safety in sharing the road with larger vehicles. Smart cars have also been criticized for their lackluster (for their size) fuel economy, at 36 miles per gallon -- not overwhelmingly better than the Honda Fit (28 city/35 highway) and Ford Fiesta (30 city/42 highway), which both boast more room.
The company is well-aware of its problems. It hired former Saturn executive Jill Lajdziak as its new president on January 4.
Lajdziak has said that the company won't be refreshing its product line -- which currently consists of X, X and X -- but instead taking to the streets to increase brand awareness and combat a reputation that its tiny cars are not safe.
Smart USA has only 77 "smart centers" located in 36 states.
That includes a leasing program promotionally priced at $169 per month for a 36-month lease on a Smart Fortwo Pure coupe.
The company still plans on introducing a plug-in electric Smart in the fourth quarter, but it only plans to introduce 250 of them Stateside.
Feb 4, 2010
My licence plate reads SMART 01 and I was one on the first people in North America to get one, having seen them in Europe. I live in the great white North of Toronto Canada. The car is a SMART 2 for 2 Diesel and gets a little under 60MPG to the US gallon. My daily commute is 75km 46.6 miles to work and back. My weekly gas bill is about $16 per week as opposed to $60 per week in Ford V6 (my wife's car). The car is a SMART 2005 so I've been driving it for almost 5 years so the gas saving is: 52x5x$44=$11400 I think the saving on gas alone has bought me a new Car. Go figure! You can pay the oil Companies or have a new Car. I wonder which is smarter? RH
..hey Andrew..as a graduate of New York and Columbia University how does it feel to have your clock cleaned by a high school kid (Neon)research paper...next time put your diploma to work and do some real research before you write about something that you don't know $#!t about .. ...Neon...way to go son... jetfuel...freaking don't know crap reporters..
All I can say to those who "wouldn't buy one" and/or "wouldn't own one" and/or "wouldn't drive one" is they haven't bought one and/or haven't owned one and/or haven't owned one. I have two, and if I ever wear one out, I will replace it immediately with another.
Oh darn, my post somehow crapped out, anyway... I'm a future owner of a smart fortwo and have done at least 2 years of research of the smart inside and out, this information is 100% accurate. - To start off the smart has some of the lowest insurance costs in all of the USA. - Traction is very good in the snow (especially with snow tires.) - It got some of the highest crash test ratings of all subcompacts - It is owned by Daimler and Mercedes - Some drivers with a feather of a foot can reach around 50mpg - EPA Estimated 33/41 mpg - Parks anywhere - Great when gas prices are a killer - Speed limited to 90mph - 0-60 in about 12.8 seconds. The fastest recorded was by Motorweek at 12.2 seconds. - USB 2.0 Upgrade makes the transmission shift faster and smoother. - Tridion Safety Cell - Exchangeable body panels that cost not even a fraction of the cost of traditional body parts - ESP - Uses Bosch Stability Control systems to help keep you from losing control of your smart. - Hill Start Assist - so you don't fly back when starting up a hill - Roomy - It fits some of the biggest people (Shaq bought one) - Luxury - cabrio model - pano roof - A/C - iPod compatible stereo with optional subs - on 08 and early 09 models had Automatic headlights and automatic wipers - Halogen Headlights provide the path through the night - Rear mounted engine - helps to provide better traction to the road. It also eliminates the need for the extra bulky parts required for a front engine. Also without a front engine, the front end of the vehicle could be as space saving as possible - Side airbags - an add on to the already rigid NASCAR quality safety cell - Turning radius of 27ft - Uses synthetic oil - Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) - low MSRP sticker price - custom made for you or pick up an orphan There are 4 US trims available, all current model 451 smart fortwo? -The pure - $11,990 ? all the essentials, nothing else, not even AC -The passion coupe - $13,990 ? the smart in its luxury form, options go on from a premium sound system with tweeters, mid-range, and a subwoofer to the comfort package with leather seating, seat heating, power steering, and fog lamps, panorama roof designed by Bayer Material Sciences is included. -The passion cabriolet - $16,990 ? this smart comes with everything that the passion coupe can have but with a cabriolet roof. One touch and the roof will open like a sun roof. Another touch and it?ll move into a full convertible position. This can be done at any speed. To add on, you could remove the upper Tridion Cell bars to full the effect. -The BRABUS coupe and cabriolet - $17,990-$20,990 ? BRABUS is just one of Mercedes Benz?s most famous modifiers. The US versions come with an upgraded exhaust system and suspension upgrades along with the BRABUS styling and body kits. There are more models one could obtain in the USA by the ?grey market? These are: -The smart city coupe ? this is the original smart fortwo, made for Europe and is imported to the USA by G&K. These come in very limited numbers and are actually shorter than the USA model. -The smart roadster ? this is the fastest smart to come off the production line. These had a limited production of only 5,000 models. These were never imported to the USA and got here by other means (military, etc.). These are extremely rare to find in the states and as the numbers aren?t solid, there?s probably less than 50 of these roadsters in the USA, making it a very rare find. They don?t have an electronic limiter so they?re top speed is whatever your red line is in 6th gear. Stock red line is at 125mph. As for safety the smart has received the highest ratings of all subcompacts. And the smart has received the IIHS highest rating of ?GOOD? overall. In roof crush tests the smart beat the competition by a mile because roof crush is over 9,000 pounds. It earned "GOOD" in this test as well. 'The smart brand (spelled in lowercase by the manufacturer) is a combination of Swatch, Mercedes and ART. The Swatch company had the idea for removable body panels, but is no longer involved with the smart'. The smart brand continued this idea of low cost, high quality removable body panels to this day. And because of this, the smart was the only car to pass the IIHS' 2.5 mph bumper test. The damage caused to the vehicle would have to cost less than $500.The smart's body panel totaled around $190. All others had failed because of their poorly designed and expensive bumpers. The smart has received the overall ratings in these categories: Roof: "GOOD" Front: "GOOD" Side: "GOOD" Rear: "ACCEPTABLE" Overall: "GOOD" Some smart owners have already gotten into a crash with their smart and have shared their amazing stories which add to the smart's credibility. That site is here: www.safeandsmart.com There's a video that had surfaced on the internet recently about how small cars fail at safety. In the video they had tested a Yaris, a Fit, and a smart. The Yaris and the Fit's passenger compartment had buckled under the force of their heavier counterparts and the Yaris driver's head even hit the other Toyota's hood. indicating serious head injury. The results of both cars indicated serious if not fatal injury to the driver. In the smart's test the smart crumpled to the passenger compartment, rebounded, and spun off into the corner. Results indicated high possibiliy of broken legs and a possibility of head injury. The smart still scored higher than the competition and the driver would still most likely live, and the legs would heal. There's another video from Fifth Gear and they smash a smart into a wall at 70mph. And then they test a four door compact at the same speed. Both cars did exceedingly well at keeping their shape. Without even considering that the smart did about the same as a car larger than it is, people stuck to the conclusion that the car is a deathtrap. Another is that the shear force of an accident would kill you in a smart because such car with little crumple zones would mean a higher deceleration rate. The smart compensates with this by not only dissipating force through the wheels but with seatbelt tensioners that act with just enough force to not dig into your neck. Fifth Gear described all of the smart's safety systems that reduce those forces on your body. Crash testing reveals that the seatbelts limit the force on the body and makes it feel as if the car didn't stop as rapidly. Some other conventional cars don't do that. And about injuries? Quote on quote from that video: "The cars may have stood up to the severity of the crash surprisingly well but the humans inside, wouldn't". Here's the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju6t-yyoU? So yes, the smart is just as safe as some larger cars. No it is not a deathtrap and you cannot use a 70mph crash as an excuse because the car's opponent did just as bad. The smart plant in Hambach, France opened its doors in 1998 rolling the first city coupe off the line. But smart?s roots go all the way back to around 1996 when ideas were rolling and the first ?smarts? were on the road. Additionally, according to Gizmag, the smart brand is the 5th "most reliable" car brand available in the USA. And this is just after only 11 years after smart opened its doors. Here's how the smart compares to other fuel sippers: Through long term testing, the little smart has proven to cost less in the long run than any other full petrol powered vehicle. Here are my equations for how much I'm saving with a smart compared to a Yaris and a Prius: smart fortwo: 41mpg after break in (EPA estimate for highway) equates to a 357mi range on one 8.7 gallon tank. At current local gas prices ($2.70 Premium) the smart gets that 357mi with only $23. Not bad, weekly lunch costs more than that. Okay now to a Prius, estimating 48mpg (EPA estimate for highway) after break in and with an 11.9 gallon tank this equates to a range of 571mi. And with gas ($2.50 Unleaded) it would cost $30. Not bad either, for ten more bucks you could go 200 more miles. Now to the Yaris, estimating 36mpg after break in (EPA estimate for highway) and with its 11.1 gallon tank it has a range of 399mi but it requires extra gallons to reach that and with the gas ($2.50 Unleaded) it will take $28 to fill up a Yaris. Here are the standings: Prius - $30 - 571mi - 48mpg Yaris - $28 - 399mi - 36mpg smart - $23 - 357mi - 41mpg -Now let?s consider buying price and later purchases (batteries): Base models: -smart fortwo pure - (automated manual transmission) $11,990 - no A/C - no power accessories (excluding locking), no radio. side airbags included -Yaris - (manual transmission) $12,205 - CD player standard, A/C, side airbags NOT included but are "optional" (receives "POOR" for side impact safety without it (08? models only)) -Prius - (automatic) $22,000 - CD player standard, Eco A/C, side airbags included Fully Loaded: -smart fortwo cabriolet (convertible) - (automated manual) $20,000 - Navigation with Bluetooth and iPod control, leather seating/heating, fog lamps, security system with immobilizer, power steering. Etc... -Yaris (2 dr coupe) - (automatic) $22,157 - iPod compatible stereo, power upgrades, style upgrades, safety upgrades, security system. -Prius - (automatic) $35,173 - eco friendly materials, navigation, remote start, solar panel cooling. -Prius battery change - every 100,000-200,000 miles/ 8 years at a price of $2,500. Yearly costs (if driven 1,000mi a month): Prius - $612 @ 1.7 fill ups a month @ $30 a fill up @ $2.50gal smart - $773 @ 2.8 fill ups a month @ $23 a fill up @ 2.70gal Yaris - $843 @ 2.51 fill ups a month @ $28 a fill up @ $2.50gal With those $194 gas savings it'll take a Prius 94 years to offset the cost of a smart. And that does not include the 100,000-200,000mi/ 8 year battery change. Parts cost of the smart: (these high strength body panels awarded the smart "GOOD" for bumper crush resistance tests)(this is if your insurance company does not pay, out of pocket etc.): $190 for single body part $1,000 for whole new body replacement (including installation) Parts cost on "traditional" cars (Prius, Yaris, F-150): $1,000 - $2,000+ for single part $8,000+ for full body replacement Parts cost of the Prius (3rd gen) Body is painted with a paint that releases oxygen $3,000+ for single part $10,000+ for full body replacement So overall, the smart is the cheaper car. It does offer a bit less performance and 2 less seats than other cars but the payoff is great. The combination of safety and design makes the smart a revolutionary car. And driving it does nothing but put a big smile on your face. Maintenance is so easy a toddler could do the basics, your smartcenter would do oil changes and scheduled maintenance for a small fee of about $120 as compared to $300+ that other companies offer. Although you can just do your own maintenance if you know how, and online manuals would show the simplest ways. Say if your dealer screws up and you're unhappy, you could call the President of smartUSA and talk to him and not a person in an outsourced country! And he'll set any issues straight. So if you want more bang for the buck (and more fun!) I highly recommend the smart car. To find out more, please go to my sources: www.smartusa.com www.safeandsmart.com www.smartcarofamerica.com www.asmartcar.com www.smart.com http://www.iihs.org/ratings/su... http://www.gizmag.com/new-figu... http://www.toyota.com/
I hope so. They are a niche vehicle. Not everyone will want one. But MB did make some poor choices, should have had deisel,and maybe the 4four (which is made by someone else, Nissan I think) and more promo's like Little Debbies. As for crashes check out Top Gear's crash of a 2four into a giant concrete barrier at high speed alongside a regular compact. The Smart car was by far the safer choice. And the ride is stiffer than when first introduced due to the Swedish Moose test (no kidding) the softer springs wouldn't pass the avoidance test.
I was first introduced to the Smart in 2006 when I was in Italy for two weeks to set up a new office. Instantly fell in love with them. Decided that I was going to get one as soon as they became available in the US. Saw them again at the Chicago Auto Show in February, 2009. Bought one the next month. Have had no regrets. The car is bigger on the inside than on the outside. A friend of mine is 6'7" and he still has two inches headroom and his knees are not touching the dashboard. Many people have stated their surprise it doesn't feel like they're in a small car at all. Have taken several long trips with it - had over 2,000 miles on it within two weeks. It has no issues at all with keeping up with highway traffic and, when passing a semi, you can't even tell they're there. The ride is a little stiff but that is probably due to the short wheelbase. Wouldn't part with mine for the world!
Could these two authors have mangled the facts more? Possibly, but I doubt it. As pointed out by others, they used the smart's combined EPA mileage to compare to other car's highway mileage - foul! And you can't compare the smart as a two seat micro car to the 4/5 seat Fiesta and Fit mini cars. "...criticized for their safety in sharing the road with larger vehicles.." - baseless without sources; criticized by whom, when? And yes, people do question their suitability for the Interstate; all I know is in over 3K miles on Interstate trips so far - zero issues. Did these guys do any homework? "...product line ? which currently consists of X, X and X.." The full product line can be found at www.smartusa.com. Their take on the smart electric drive: "...but it only plans to introduce 250 of them Stateside." Yes, to be followed by full production in 2011; very similar to the phased introduction of the electric drive MINI. And finally, they couldn't even bother to figure out who sells the smart in the USA: "Sold in the U.S. by Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz." Sorry Larry and Andrew, but smart is imported and sold in the USA by smart USA Distributor LLC, a division of the Penske Auto Group. Overall, a C for effort and an F for researching your facts.
The car has a 1 liter petrol engine. If you look at motorcycles with the same displacement, they get similar MPG's (its only the smaller engines that get 60 to 70). So being that the car weighs much more than a bike, that is pretty impressive. Also, the car doesn't need environment-devastating batteries like hybrids do, and still achieves pretty good mileage. I agree a diesel would be great but it would probably not be profitable to modify the engine, etc for the US if it is just a niche car (which is what it is). It's not for everyone. My wife and I use our smarts to drive ourselves to and from work. We live in a crowded city and are able to save a lot of money and hassle by sharing one parking space. The car handles on the freeways fine, and I'm just as scared of running head-on into a semi as I was when I had a much larger car. If smart markets the car right, I think they can stay in business here. The key is the smart fortwo competes with 5-seater compacts like the Focus and the Fit in the same way as a BMW z4 competes with a Mercedes C330. It doesn't. In both cases the 5-seaters are more "cushy" and practical for those with kids, etc, and the 2-seaters fit a certain lifestyle and aesthetic, and are more fun to drive (seriously--try driving one).
Gotta love the comments from non-smart owners. You guys need to research before you give your opinion of safety and reliability. We have three in our family. One with 42,000 miles, another with 24,000 miles and another with 10,000 miles. All have proven to be reliable over the last two years since introduction. As far as mileage, I have averaged 42mpg on the 42,000 mile car and 40mpg on the 24,000 mile car and we haven't tracked every tank on the 10,000 mile car. This is not highway mileage but combined. The safety tridion that keeps you safe also weighs the car down so it is a whooping 1800 pounds and the high profile to keep you comfortable inside is a good wind blocker. Both reasons why this car doesn't consistently get 50mpg. I've found that people who say their car gets better mileage actually don't track EVERY tank. You should start doing that and you'll be surprised with what you think you are getting and what you are really getting.
Interesting the post refers to the city mileage only (36 mpg) and does not even mention highway mileage at 41 mpg. It's also interesting it is not compared to a single two-seat/rear-mid engine vehicle,only those which aren't even is the some class. As others have noted, the smart is more of a vehicle of agility and invokes a feel of sportiness which is not what a typical economy car seeker is interested in (caveat: the experience is replicated by those who can performance-drive a manual transmission).
My wife, kids, and I spend a couple of months in Palermo,Italy for summer vacation and Christmas. Its not a wealthy city, and small cars of all types are just about all their is. We have a 3 cyl. Chevy Matiz (which will be updated and called the "Spark" here soon) The Smart took a while to become common there, too expensive. But since early 2008, I've noticed a significant increase - the quality and parking ease is the key. Not many ForFours or Roadsters, so its the size (beats the Mazda 2, Peugot 208, even the Hyundai Atos or Getz). 90% are diesel. But this Christmas, the Fiat 500 had taken over big time - many more than in the summer. And believe it or not, the Chevy Matiz like ours is now very popular since it'll be updated and re-named for the U.S., insuring Chevy dealers will be around in Palermo.
For the past four Detroit International Auto Shows, I have told Smart I am ready to buy the DIESEL. I have no interest in the hybrid they unveiled this year. What part of 60mpg don't they get?
We had 2 on order in the beginning of 2008, when they became available in showrooms in February, we went to see what was happening with our delivery ... they said it would take another 2 to 3 months. I looked at the sticker and got "sticker shock" - almost $18,000 for the rag top ... I asked for our deposits back and went to Mini ...
The dealer from http://www.smartcenterannapolis.com/ brought one to a Urbanite Baltimore party at Velleghia's and let everyone check out the seats, motor, and trunk. I'm almost 6 feet tall and I was surprised at all the leg room. It looked great for running around the city and I live in downtown Baltimore, MD
I owned a Smart between 2000 and 2003 and always got 50mpg (42mpg in US terms) regardless of motorway or town driving. Now I have a Fiat 500, which must have stolen a good deal of the Smart money in the EU at least, which does 65mpg but it's DIESEL - which has 20% more energy in it than petrol. So actually they're within spitting distance of each other some ten years apart. Perhaps I'm missing something?
As a person who owns two of the Passion Cabrios, one Brabus just purchased a week ago, the issue is the understanding of the American market and the love of the larger car. We've rented the FourFour and most recently FourTwo MHD when visiting Germany. They are well made, just built with the city in mind. To say they are a P.O.S. is a very uninformed statement. Happen to have a Vespa also BTW. At any rate, they are sold all over Europe and used by businesses and their employees (e.g., nurses, social workers, etc.). Just a few thoughts from one who has lived and worked in Europe.
Hint: They're not smart. A car this size should get 70-80 mpg. I look at these and see gas-guzzling waste machines on the par with a Hummer. The only advantage is space and that is tempered by it's lack of utility. Anyone can design a two seat Vespa. Back to the drawing board.
Not because of any objection to driving something so small - the size makes a lot more sense in Europe's crowded cities. But because it only has two seats, so it could only ever be a second car. And if I'm going to pay ?10k for a second, less practical car (I'd have to get a first car before I could do that anyway...) I'd buy a sports car.
In a way, they are a victim of their own success in the first year. Penske only planned for 15-16K units per year and M-B had previously capped US sales at 20K units per year. The big % decreases are artificially inflated from the first year's better than expected sales of a new brand/model during a period of high gas prices. There is still work to do, however. Some advertising, the diesel and a four passenger model should be high on the smartUSA list, IMO. I have 29K miles on mine as a daily driver and trip car. I've averaged 43 mpg over the 25K + miles I've tracked (see XCAPEPOD at Fuelly.com) doing nothing special. The car has been to Philly, DC, NJ, DE, Indy, Nashville, Montgomery, AL, etc. You can see my first year of ownership on YouTube, just search for "a smart story" with the quotes. I've changed the body panels myself when a new color came out and survived a deer hit with only a damaged headlight that I replaced myself. The low insurance rates, lower than average fatalities, and accident stories posted on safeandsmart.com also show the relative toughness of this little car. I love those replaceable plastic panels!
They are not a P.O.S! they are actually quite good and quite safe. But come on, they hired an exec from a company that couldn't make it and expect better from the dude, good luck there. And then there is the issue of going gas from diesel, that was a big mistake. They also should have brought over the 4-4, another mistake. Oh, and what marketing? When was the last time you saw a Smart ad on TV? You can't sell what nobody knows about.
As observed there are serious automotive alternatives that are superior in every way. I wouldn't own one of these if it was free . . .what a P.O.S..