DaimlerChrysler to Bring Teeny Two-Seater to U.S.

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DaimlerChrysler to Bring Teeny Two-Seater to U.S. The company's Smart car, available in Europe since 1998, is to go on sale here in early 2008. By John O'Dell
Times Staff Writer
June 29, 2006
The tiny Smart car is only two-thirds the size of a Mini Cooper, but DaimlerChrysler has big plans for it.
The German automaker, which has been selling the two-seater in Europe since 1998, said Wednesday it planned to introduce the Smart in the U.S. early in 2008.
With a fuel-sipping three-cylinder engine that gets about 60 miles per gallon on European highways, the Smart could be a big hit here. But first Americans will have to be convinced that something so small can hold its own against pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles that could carry the 1,600-pound Smart in back.
Dieter Zetsche, DaimlerChrysler's chief executive and former head of its U.S.-based Chrysler Group unit, is betting that $3-a-gallon gasoline and crowded streets and highways will help overcome concerns about size.
At just 8-feet, 2-inches in length, the Smart ForTwo, as the model is called, can be parked in half the space occupied by a full-size pickup.
DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz unit, which builds the Smart at a plant in France, designed it to stand up to much larger vehicles, Zetsche said. The passenger cabin is framed in high-strength steel that is designed to work like the safety cage of a modern race car, isolating passengers from the shock of a collision.
"We are very confident about the safety features and structural integrity" of the Smart, Zetsche said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The Smart has never made a profit. Zetsche is betting that a redesign and stepped up marketing in Europe next year will turn things around and that U.S. sales in 2008 will provide even bigger profits.
The next-generation Smart ForTwo will be sold in the U.S. through a dealership chain to be established by United Auto Group Inc., the brand's U.S. distributor and marketer and the second-largest operator of new-car dealerships in the U.S.
Zetsche said United Auto, led by former auto racer Roger Penske, expects to have 30 to 50 dealerships ready when the Smart is launched and will continue expanding until the U.S. market is covered. He said the Smart would be promoted as a commuter car in urban areas and as convenient transportation in leisure communities.
One of the risks the Smart brand faces is pricing. There are several small cars in the U.S. market, such as the Honda Fit and Kia Rio, that have room for four or five passengers and are priced in the same range as the Smart.
Zetsche said the car would be priced under $15,000.
DaimlerChrysler hopes to sell 20,000 Smarts in the U.S. in 2008. Philip Reed, a senior auto industry analyst at Edmunds.com, said he believed the company would easily achieve that goal. "It will sell not only because of its fuel economy and equipment but because of its looks and appeal."
The Smart isn't totally new to North America. DaimlerChrysler began marketing the car in Canada in 2004 and last year sold 4,000 Smarts there.
And a Northern California company, Zap, began importing and distributing a version of the European Smart to the U.S. about a year ago. The cars are converted to meet U.S. safety standards and exported by a private firm with no connection to DaimlerChrysler.
So far, Santa Rosa-based Zap has sent about 200 of the cars to various dealers, who sell them for prices starting at about $20,000.
"We knew from the start that it was only a matter of time" before DaimlerChrysler began selling the cars in the U.S. at a lower price, said Zap spokesman A.J. Gilbertson. But until 2008, he said, Zap has the only Smarts around.
*
(INFOBOX BELOW)
Big and small
A comparison of the Smart and the Hummer H2
    Hummer H2    Smart Curb weight    6,400 lbs    1,600 lbs. Length    15' 9"    8' 2" Width    6' 9"    4' 11" Height    6' 7"    5' Seating    6    2 Cylinders    8    3 Fuel tank    32 gal.    10 gal. Horsepower    325    60 Miles per gallon*    8 to 13    40 city/60 hwy. Price (in thousands)    $50+    under $15
*Estimated by industry sources.
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F. H. wrote:

http://img332.imageshack.us/my.php?image=twoseater8ao.jpg][I
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If I lived in a city, I'd get one. They take up little space and are easy to find a parking spot for. Seemed to be the most popular car in the cities in Italy. Rome is about 20% Vespas, 25% Smart. They did very well in a front end crash against a Mercedes.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

I'd like one, but the price will not be right. It will be more expensive than a regular compact car like a Focus or Chevy Cavalier. The regular car does so much more.
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Depends on where you live. In most US cities and any small town, the Focus or Cavalier is a better overall deal. In some European cities, the congestion is horrid and the difference in size means parking 4 blocks from your apartment instead of 12 blocks. In most of Italy, gas was $5.80 a gallon when I was there in March. An extra 5 or 10 mpg is a big difference. The Smart is also cheaper there than it will be here.
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wrote in message

IIRC Smart cars are 3 cyl. diesel, hopefully gaining more savings.

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On Fri, 30 Jun 2006 10:08:46 -0500, "Robert Sveinson"

3 cyl, 800cc PETROL., not diesel.
The similar sized car with a diesel engine is the liegier - of course, it only has 18hp, and limited to 30mph, but on the up side can be driven on a mopod license there.

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On 29 Jun 2006 18:18:45 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

And are so much bigger. If you think a focus is a small car, you've got a bad case of "the texas grande's"
in europe, ford has cars smaller than the focus - the fiesta - which is a 4 seater, 3 or 5 door hatchback, not bad small cars. Then they have the Ka, smaller still, 3 door only, and you can't really get an adult int he back at all. Focus is a 'family size' car in Europe. Of course, Ford aint the only ones - VW has the polo and lupo, or fox now, under its golf, Peugeot have the 107, 206, and 1007 small than the 307 which is its civic equivilent.
someone else replied its the difference between 4 blocks and 12, its often worse. The cars are also very nimble, and surprisingly competant on the highway.
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flobert wrote:

The Focus is described as a semicompact car. This size of vehicle is at the price sweet spot in the United States.

I'm aware of both of these vehicles, but we're talking about the Smart here. It is going to be expensive and what are you going to get for this money? A compact car will be a much better buy.
It will also probably be gasoline here, as US diesel fuel standards preclude the use of domestic European-market diesel engines.
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<snip>
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah blah blah.
Canada has these rolling telephone booths since...what? 2003?
Daimler Chrysler loses money on each and every one, in spite of their high purchase price.
There are forty inches (I checked) between the front bumper and the top of the steering wheel. You wanna bash into something while driving a "Smart"? Go check how many inches separate *your* steering wheel top from *your* front bumper.
You know why "Smarts" are officially "safe"? Because there are too many dollars between you and the other vehicles.
--
TeGGeR


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TeGGeR wrote:

40" doesn't necessarily mean a thing. check this out: http://www.bridger.us/2002/12/16/CrashTestingMINICooperVsFordF150 i'd trust 40" from daimlerchrysler more than 80" from ford ANY day.

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wrote:

They are very crash surviveable. You may end up in the next county, punted like a football, but you should survive. VERY good structural engineering. I would not want to get sandwiched between two 18 wheelers - but that is true in ANY vehicle today - including a Hummer.
--
Posted via a free Usenet account from http://www.teranews.com


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Jim, I would have thought that someone of your experience and intelligence would better evaluate a source such as Bridger. Your link shows the result of two head on crashes, one of which (the F150) is actually a front end offset crash as opposed to the Mini which is a true front end impact...Next the table of data listed were compiled by two "scientists" one of which is from Cal Berkley which has a reputation of being anti-everything establishment/American/or even moderately conservative. These data are misleading and actually of little value as they list number of deaths per 1mil vehicles but they include not only the hitter but also the hitee. This means 10 Yugo drivers hit 10 F150 and all 10 Yugo drivers are killed, then BOTH the Yugo and the F150 are credited with 10 fatalities. Although technically correct, this is a way to skew these data to support (or in this case smear) a particular position or belief. In any such a study one must ask the question; "Do the researchers have a personal agenda that may color his perspective, analysis, and findings?". Also interesting was the fact that the researchers lumped into a single category all Ford trucks, to wit, "F-series". These are the best selling vehicles in the U.S. and have been for decades. This allows for consideration of many more crashes than for other categories... BTW, in the 1970s the Mini was banned from import into the U.S....Why? Because Ralph Nader convinced someone that no vehicle with 12" wheels (maybe 10" I disremember) could be safe enough to operate on American roads. Besides which, these nowadays are not real Minis or Mini Coopers or Mini Cooper Ss.
Dave D
Dave D
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Dave and Trudy wrote:

-SNIP-
Certainly true but hardly exclusive to Cal Berkley - *your* personal agenda is showing.
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Quite sure it is! However, I would submit that you haven't sussed my personal agenda in this case, so I will state it so you can comprehend! My personal agenda was to point out how flawed the study was that was cited. It was an evalutation of the sources cited. That and nothing more!
Dave D

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Dave and Trudy wrote:

So let me state my post such that you can comprehend. One must further ask the question "Do the research reviewers have a personal agenda that may color his perspective, analysis, and findings?"
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As I stated above. Yes, we do and that personal agenda is to evaluate the perspicacity of the research and the researchers therein involved.
Dave D

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On Fri, 30 Jun 2006 01:28:00 +0000 (UTC), "TeGGeR"

Not true. Take a F1 car - head on crash at 140mph will only crush the first what, 8-10". Its all about structure and method. There was a video on google a few months back, showing a clip fromt he UK show "5th gear" - in it they crashed a smart from either 40 or 50mph into concrete blocks, in an offset impact. vehicle came out pretty damned good - better than a lot of vehicles I've seen in the US in slower impacts.
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The problem with a limited crumple zone is that the vehicle has to be much more rigid to minimize intrusion or deformation of the passenger compartment. Designing a passenger compartment that does not deform at 40 mph is not as difficult as designing a passenger restraint system that does not transmit all of the crash forces to the occupants, like a falling elevator.
For example, you could put someone inside a padded safe, and push it out a 4th floor window and let it hit the ground. The safe may be structurally sound, but the occupant is mushed inside.
--

Ray O
(correct punctuation to reply)
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Ray O wrote:

true, but the way that f150 deformed, it didn't absorb much impact, /and/ mushed the occupants by intrusion - the worst of both worlds.
personally, as a guy that like to surf junkyards from time to time, i've taken the trouble to examine a fair number of wrecks. i'll take the vehicle that doesn't allow intrusion any day thanks very much - i'll take my chances on the effects of being punted around inside.
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