That’s the Smart fortwo. Yes, “fortwo” is the model name. Any guesses why? Right, it’s only for two people (and two bags). Only available in the U.S. through a company who modifies the gasoline engines to meet current standards, the Smart car is the latest in European city cars. Over 750,000 of them have been sold in Europe and they’re coming here, supposedly in 2008 for a base price somewhere around $15,000.
Â And what do you get for your money? An economical (40-50 mpg) three-cylinder diesel motor and automatic transmission. It is tiny, tiny. Two can fit in the average single car garage. But they have this steel and aluminum cage around the passenger compartment (ok, the whole car) that is supposed to protect you in a disagreement with an SUV – say like if they don’t see you.
But, like all urban cars, they have this built-in practical and cute in an ugly way mistique going for them that’s almost unexplainable. Just like the original Beetle and the Mini (both versions). If they can keep the price down they’ll sell like hotcakes.
They also have (only in Europe) another two types, the forfour (go ahead, I dare you to guess) which looks even uglier without any of the cutenessÂ and a two-seater roadster. I don’t think D-C is going to bring the roadster over the pond. Stupid decision, expecially to me. I’d practically kill for one – a two-seater sportscar that gets 50 mpg! Bring it to me, por favor! Oh, wait. I get thousands in change from a $20K bill? Bring it now!
The whole process will almost inevitably go like many others like it before have gone. Management decides on a low number for sales projections, they’re wildly underoptimistic, and there’s a shortage. So the dealers get to ration them with higher pricing that drops directly into the dealers’ pockets, in the process shafting the consumer.
Right now there are so few available, they sell on eBay with buy-it-now pricing in the $35K range and that is surely the true defnintion of rip off. Dr. Z, send enough that they don’t get a premium attached to them. Make them available, like a true people’s car ought to be. I’ll tell you a secret that no one in Marketing knows. The laws of supply and demand tell us that if you price it right you’ll sell every one you can make and the lower the price is, the more of them you sell. Take a risk, Dr. Z. If you sell it, they will come.