dodge gets SMARTish
Automakers ready to build smaller, fuel-efficient cars
Wire Report
It might be time to dust off the old jokes about rubber bands and
windup keys that tormented early Volkswagen Beetle owners. Some auto industry forecasters and carmakers are betting that Americans are ready once again to embrace tiny cars in big numbers.
At the Geneva auto show Feb. 28, DaimlerChrysler plans to unveil an experimental small car, the Dodge Hornet, that's about 151.4 inches long - or nearly two feet shorter than a Dodge Neon or the Neon's replacement, the Dodge Caliber, that is just going on sale.
The carmaker is noncommittal about plans to market the Hornet, but it has said it is looking for an offshore partner to build a subcompact for sale in the United States. And analysts say Dodge needs such a car, here and abroad, to entice first-time buyers and the newly fuel-economy conscious and to counter inexpensive models expected in coming years from China.
"I hope they do it," said Erich Merkle, senior auto analyst at the industry forecasting firm IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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