SMART Cars in the United States

This evening I saw a series of posts in the Hyundai group questioning why the SMART is not available for sale here in the United States. I have seen them on trips to England, and they are most interesting.
I lost the thread, but I have found this partial answer to the basic question on the Net. It may be all wishful thinking by these folks, but here it is:
1. What type of fuel does the Smart Car use? Unleaded regular gasoline, 87 Octane. ZAP is focused on models that use unleaded gasoline, but some models are powered by diesel fuel. Its not electric and not a hybrid, but the size and power rating make it one of the most efficient internal combustion cars in production today, rivaling the efficiency of the current hybrids in America.
2. When will the Smart Car Americanized by ZAP be available? Soon, but at ZAP we foresee a huge public demand for this car for which there may not be enough initial supply to satisfy. Through a registered import company, ZAP is beginning to distribute cars through authorized and technically trained dealers. Visit our website at www.zapworld.com to register your purchase interest and when the cars become available in your area, we will arrange for you to be alerted about any purchase opportunities.
3. Where can you buy a Smart Car Americanized by ZAP? Our goal is to open an auto dealership in your neighborhood where you would be able to see, test-drive and buy the Smart Car Americanized by ZAP. ZAP is in the process of mapping out distribution for a complete line of cars through a distribution network of ZAP Authorized Retailers. ZAP Auto Dealerships will be pioneers in marketing the next generation of transportation, targeting marketing opportunities for energy efficient and advanced automotive technologies.
4. How much does the Smart Car Americanized by ZAP cost? The Smart Car Americanized by ZAP will be available through selected auto dealers. The cars come with a multitude of options, accessories and sub-models, so prices may vary subject to options and availability. Our initial supply includes many with luxury features, so pricing may be in the $25,000 range.
5. What is the fuel economy of the Smart Car? According to the EPA the Smart Car Americanized by ZAP is one of the most fuel-efficient cars available. Fuel-efficiency can vary depending on road conditions and vehicle operation. Visit http://www.smart.com for European test data.
6. How can I become a ZAP dealer? The timing has never been better to become a dealer for advanced technology vehicles and ZAP is currently approaching existing auto dealers to become dealers for ZAP Cars and other vehicles. If you are an auto dealer or know someone who is, ZAP is recruiting dealers who will drive the future of transportation by becoming leaders in their community for the next generation of automotive technologies that are fun, practical and follow our philosophy of Zero Air Pollution (ZAP). Contact ZAP Dealer Development at (707) 525-8658.
7. How/why is ZAP able to sell it in the U.S.? The Smart Car is manufactured in Europe where gasoline is $4 or more per gallon. It has been on the market in most parts of the world since 1998, but to date has not been made available in the United States. ZAP took the initiative to bring the car to the United States through certified direct importers to make them available in the U.S. with full certification and no exemptions. ZAP has forged an exclusive technology licensing agreement with Smart-Automobile LLC allowing the certification of the Smart Car to U.S. EPA and DOT standards as well as the distribution rights to market the car.
8. The Smart Car Americanized by ZAP is so small; is it safe? The designers of the Smart Car applied simple laws of physics to create a smaller car that takes automotive safety to a whole new level. In a collision, the car reacts in a different way than larger, conventional cars. The spherical geometry of the vehicles tridion safety cell is an aluminum safety-cage with steel reinforcements that is designed to hold its shape like the crash-cage of a racecar. The lighter weight combined with wheel wells in the four corners and safety features like dual airbags, anti-lock brakes and more results in a car that is safer than cars much larger than it.
9. How fast is the Smart Car Americanized by ZAP? Can it travel on the freeway? 85 MPH. The Smart Car Americanized by ZAP is now legal on most U.S. road and freeways, but designers governed the top speed to enhance the fuel efficiency. Todays urban drivers rarely have an opportunity to reach freeway speeds and the Smart Car was designed with this in mind. What it gives up in top speed, the car makes up for in drivability and handling. The 6-speed, on-demand manual/automatic electronic transmission combined with electronic stabilization creates sporty package that is fun to drive.
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============== In further research I found the following US dealers:
Arizona              
3D Auto Wholesalers, Inc. 813 N. Scottsdale Road Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Tel: (602) 318-4211 Fax: (480) 821-7766 Website: www.bigfourtrucks.com
          Colorado              
Elizabeth RV and Automotive Center Inc Contact: S.T. (Satyendra) Tripathi 5475 Highway 86 Unit 1 and 2 Elizabeth, CO 80107
Tel: (303)646-8810 Website: www.elizabethrvauto.com           Florida         
ZAP of Palm Beach/ Foreign Affairs Auto 1681 North Military Trail West Palm Beach, FL 33409
Tel: (561) 478-9999 Main Fax: (561) 689-7000 Website: www.foreignaffairsauto.com
          Nevada         
Rajun Cajun Used Cars & ZAP! of Reno 2615 Wrondel Way Reno, NV 89502
Tel: (775) 828-5121 Fax: (775) 828-5322 Website: www.rajuncajunusedcars.com
              
Sprads RV and Auto Center Contact: Keith Spradling 10000 South Virginia Reno, NV 89511
Tel: (775)852-0606 Fax: (775)852-0770 Website: www.spradsrv.com
          New Hampshire               
McFarland Ford Sales, Inc. Contact: Sue McFarland 151 Portsmouth Ave Exeter, NH 03833
Tel: (603)772-5953 Fax: (603)772-1144 Website: www.mcfarlandford.com Pennsylvania     
Ferrante Motor Cars Contact: Anthony Ferrante 601 Jackson Avenue Vandergrift, PA 15690
Tel: (724) 567-5675 Toll-Free: (800) 715-5675 Fax: (724) 567-5531 Website: www.ferrantemotorcars.com           Washington     
Green Car Company, LLC 11630 Slater Avenue NE #3 Kirkland, WA 98034
Tel: (425) 820-4549 Fax: (425) 825-1255 Website: www.greencarco.com
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I've see two Smart Cars here in Nashua, NH. One is a rolling billboard for a tanning salon and has Ontario plates on it. The other appeared to be privately owned and had temporary NH plates on it.
If these ZAP people are for real, the Smart Car is a complete waste of money. At that price, it would take hundreds of thousands of miles - and probably decades of driving - to recover the $10-$12,000 difference in price through fuel savings, compared to buying an Accent or similar compact/sub-compact car. I seriously doubt that a Smart Car would last long enough for that.
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Brian Nystrom wrote:

What is the fuel mileage? I finally navigated their web site (and what a joke it is) enough to find a place where it said that fuel mileage for the USA wasn't yet available.
I like their claims about "using physics" to make it safer than larger cars. I really want to see the crash tests. I absolutely agree that having a protective "cocoon" for the occupants is essential. However, you also need a mechanism to decelerate that cocoon at a reasonable rate. I believe that ZAP has accomplished the former, but I don't believe they can do the latter. They simply don't have enough structure between the "cage" and the front bumper. This car is going to come to a complete stop in about a foot as compared to 2-3 feet for larger vehicles. That will place tremendous strain on the occupants. Now if they use a five-point belt system like NASCAR, require helmets, neck rolls, etc., then maybe you can match the performance of more typical cars.
Matt
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smart, according to Mercedez-Benz Canada: City estimate: 4.6 l/100 km Highway estimate: 3.7 l/100 km (manual) 3.8 l/100 km (automatic)
Accent hatchback, according to Hyundai Canada: City estimate: 8.1 l/100 km (5-Speed Manual) 8.9 l/100 km (4-Speed Automatic) Highway estimate: 6.5 l/100 km (manual) 6.2 l/100 km (4-Speed Automatic)
It looks like the smart is more fuel efficient than the Accent (which is much faster). I see quite a few smart where I live and nothing else in that price range will attract attention like a smart. This is a good reason for a business to buy them (or anyone who wants to go unnoticed). In Canada, the starting price of a smart is $3,700 CDN more than an Accent.
Ghislain

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Let's see what we can find in the U.S.:
http://www.elizabethrvauto.com/listman/exec/search.cgi?search=1&lfield23_keyword=New&2&lfield19_keyword=Smart%20Car
I see them selling at about $28K (taxes etc excluded).
In that same area,
http://www.arapahoehyundai.com/en_US /
has a 2005 Hyundai Accent 4dr Sedan GLS Auto listed at $13K:
http://www.arapahoehyundai.com/en_US/frm_index.chtml?noc=1&pageName=VehicleDetails_1&overrideUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fnitra.h1yu.com%2Farapahoe%2Fen_US%2FVehicleDetails.jsp%3FsiteId%3De103d190350c100484170003ba2ccb57%26version%3Dlive%26page_type_layout%3DVehicleDetails_std%26pageName%3DVehicleDetails_1%26search%3Dnew%26web_id%3Dhyundai-arapahoe%26widget-catcher%3D%26id%3D521498854
Ignoring the fact that the sales tax on the smart car will be higher, that's a $15K price difference.
At the current prices, that translates to about 5,000 more gallons of gas.
Say, you get an average 30 mpg out of the Accent. That translates to 150,000 miles that the savings can fund.
Note that, this ignores the interest savings as well.
On the other hand, I see prices around $20K Canadian mentioned on some websites (http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/pw/05smartcabriolet.htm )
However, the same reviewer also notes:
<blockquote> Situate a smart behind a large truck or a bus, and it gets positively hinky on you, as the front wheels lift and the vehicle gets pushed around in the turbulent air. </blockquote>
...
<blockquote> But don't forget, for $16,000 (let alone $21,000 for the cabriolet) you can buy a very well equipped Toyota Echo Hatch, or even a base Mazda3 sedan. They won't have the same cachet, I grant you, but if you're thinking the smart's a bargain, these are some comparably-priced options. The smart cabriolet will be the cheapest convertible on the road, however. </blockquote>
Sinan
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A. Sinan Unur < snipped-for-privacy@llenroc.ude.invalid>
(remove .invalid and reverse each component for email address)
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Yea, it's unfortunate that ZAP has bumped the price up and out of reach of reality. The thing costs much less elsewhere.

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A. Sinan Unur wrote:

http://www.elizabethrvauto.com/listman/exec/search.cgi?search=1&lfield23_keyword=New&2&lfield19_keyword=Smart%20Car
http://www.arapahoehyundai.com/en_US/frm_index.chtml?noc=1&pageName=VehicleDetails_1&overrideUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fnitra.h1yu.com%2Farapahoe%2Fen_US%2FVehicleDetails.jsp%3FsiteId%3De103d190350c100484170003ba2ccb57%26version%3Dlive%26page_type_layout%3DVehicleDetails_std%26pageName%3DVehicleDetails_1%26search%3Dnew%26web_id%3Dhyundai-arapahoe%26widget-catcher%3D%26id%3D521498854
Actually, it's much more than that, as you you have to figure it out based on the the difference in cost per mile, not just the absolute number of gallons/miles you could drive with the savings, since you're using gas in the Smart Car, too. I did some quick math the other day based on $12K difference in price and $3/gallon gas and here are the results of how far you would have to drive to make up the price difference:
50 mpg ($.06/mile) vs 40 mpg ($.075/mile) = 800,000 miles 50 mpg ($.06/mile) vs 35 mpg ($.0857/mile) = 467,000 miles 50 mpg ($.06/mile) vs 30 mpg ($.10/mile) = 300,000 miles 50 mpg ($.06/mile) vs 25 mpg ($.12/mile) = 200,000 miles 50 mpg ($.06/mile) vs 20 mpg ($.15/mile) = 133,000 miles 50 mpg ($.06/mile) vs 15 mpg ($.2/mile) = 96,000 miles
These mileage numbers are arbitrary, but the the same difference in cost per mile will yield the same results, regardless of the actual numbers involved. Of course, these figures will vary with the cost difference between vehicles and the price of gas, but it's pretty clear that it would be pretty DUMB to buy a SMART for $12,000 more than another vehicle.
The same method can be used to compute the payback on a hybrid, which is not too good, either.
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Mercedes Benz Brought the Smart here several years ago.The corporate offices are in Montvale NJ and are about 5 blocks from me.They had a parking lot full and even a 2 seater sport model.Some ere on the road as they were seen drving around.Car and Driver did a report on one going cross country,got a crappy rating.Gas milage ws only 32-40 at best was slow no power uncomfortable and couldn't pass US government tequirementsa.Mercedes actually CLEARED their parking lot OVERNIGHT when the eision was announced.
RIPPER FREEDOM WILL NEVER BE FREE! BOYCOTT CALIFORNIA SPORT TOURING!
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I just read the Car and Driver blurb on the Smart Car. They admitted that it was a 'city' car and that the mileage was disappointing because they averaged 84 mph! They had some good things to say about it and some bad things that they said MB promised to address. The car isn't a MB, BMW, or Rolls, it's a utilitarian means of ciy transportation. They also admitted that it was an eye catcher and very unique. Oh well, to each his own.

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Oh, and the mileage was 37 mpg at 84 mph.

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I also read that MB pulled the plug on the fourseater version and are rethinking the whole thing. Too bad. We'll just keep our heads in the sand and feed those V10's.

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