It looks cool, drives smart, parks as easy as ABC and is on the most coveted list for more than 800 Bostonians who have already signed up in droves to own one. The Smart Fortwo is now available in the United States and in Somerville.
“I’m excited. I’m so glad they are here,” said April Moralez of Boston, one of many who dropped by the new Smart Center in the
Herb Chambers showroom at 259 McGrath Highway today to check it out. “I think they’ll sell a lot of them. Especially for people who live in the city and don’t drive much – I mean, why have a big car?”
Moralez is one of many who have long-admired the tiny but tough Smart car in Europe. She drove one on Germany a year ago and has always wanted one since. She even has a miniature model at home.
“I love the size and styling. I think it’s totally unique,” said Herb Chambers, only too happy to show off his special 2002 Smart Crossblade, a collectible from France and on display at the Somerville showroom – complete with helmets and goggles like a motorbike on four wheels.
“They are so cute you want to take one home. We don’t sell cars. We are running an adoption agency!” Chambers laughed.
Want one now? Join $99 reservation program at the showroom or online and be one of the first Americans to one this quarter. Without any advertising and special promos, the Smart was unveiled in 68 dealerships across the country today. More than 400 customers have already signed up at the Somerville dealership and Chambers has no concerns about how well it will sell.
“People purchase a vehicle based on how it looks. They are also concerned about quality, fuel efficiency, safety and the price.” And the Smart Fortwo is a winner on all sides. “Everyone loves it. It’s something that when you see it, it puts a smile on your face.”
The models that will be available in the United States include the Smart Fortwo Pure (entry-level), the well-equipped Passion coupe and the well-equipped convertible Passion Cabriolet. All come equipped with the 3-cylinder, 1-liter gasoline powered engine that could give 35-gallons per mile in the city or 50 on the highway, with a top speed of 90 miles per hour.
The Fortwo Pure will start at $11,590, the Passion coupe will start at $13,590 and the sporty Passion Cabriolet will start at $16,590. Check out some promo videos on YouTube.
Concerned about size and safety? Don’t be. This car has excelled safety tests and even a crash test with a Mercedes Benz more than twice its size. It is designed to achieve a 4-star crash rating in the USA. The reinforced steel and the design of the car allow for the displacement of impact and redistribution of crash energy. Because of the size of the vehicle, most crashes will also involve one of the wheelbases that help displace energy. “It’s built like a steel capsule,” said Chambers, for whom safety was a major concern.
Smart is a member of the Mercedes Car Group. These vehicles are sold in 36 countries throughout the world. Over 750,000 fortwo vehicles have been sold since its introduction.
At a 5 foot 1 height and width, it is surprisingly roomy and looks like any other German car once you are sitting inside – comfortable and sturdy. Only 8.8 foot long, you can fit two Fortwos in a car space for one so you can easily nose into a parking space half the size of any other car without having to back in to parallel park.
While compact, it does boast 8 cubic feet of storage space – 12 feet if you load up to the roofline to fit two suitcases or numerous bags of groceries, gym bags and even golf clubs.
Bought a yellow For two and want a new look? Just switch the body panels for any of the six available colors just like you would change faceplates on a Swatch. After all, the project idea was originally started by the Swiss watch manufacturer and nicknamed Swatchmobile. The name SMART is an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART, according to Wikipedia.
Production began in 1998 in Hambach, France. That same year, smart became a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Daimler-Benz AG.
It is also a friend of the environment using smart technology and development like water-soluble paints, fully recyclable body panels and is classified as an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle. The catalytic converter is positioned close to the engine for a quick response. An electric pump blows fresh air into the exhaust port when the engine is cold to almost completely oxidize the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and render them harmless. Smart is the world’s only automaker that served as an official partner of the Live Earth concerts, which featured more than 100 headliners across the world on July 7, 2007.
Until today, the Smart was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, one of only six cars in the world to achieve this distinction and the only one still in production and on sale today.
Designed as an ultra-urban micro-compact car, the Smart car is a worldwide statement on innovation, intelligence, functionality and the simple joy of driving, according to its Web site. After all good things come in small packages.
Herb Chambers, seen at his
Somerville auto dealership, was all smiles
Monday after becoming the first dealer in
Massachusetts to offer the Smart Car.
Herb Chambers, seen at his Somerville auto dealership, was all
smiles Monday after becoming the first dealer in Massachusetts to offer the
SOMERVILLE - In an era of $3 gasoline, auto dealer Herb Chambers is betting that
some consumers will ditch their SUVs and get Smart.
Chambers is the first and only dealer in Massachusetts to carry the Smart Fortwo,
a Euro-influenced microcar manufactured by the Mercedes division of Daimler AG.
Marketed toward eco-conscious city dwellers, the two-seater models are notable
their ultra-compact design. Just 8.8 feet long, the Smart Fortwo is the smallest
production car sold in the U.S. That's reflected in its mileage of 33 miles per
gallon in the city and 41 on the highway.
The base model starts at $11,590, a price that seems attuned to recession-wary
"The timing is right for this car,'' Chambers said yesterday at a press briefing
in Somerville to introduce the new line-up.
U.S. dealerships have been allocated 30,000 vehicles, and most are reserved for
people who have already placed $99 deposits. Mercedes spread word about the new
model with an Internet-based campaign. It also drummed up interest last year
with a 50-city road show to city festivals and Whole Foods Market locations.
Herb Chambers, which has been allocated 770 vehicles, will offer vehicles for
sale to the public if reservations are cancelled. Chambers received his first
deliveries of the Smart Fortwo last week and will sell them from his flagship
Somerville dealership and his Lynnfield dealership.
Chambers took 5,000 square feet at his 250,000-square-foot Somerville
headquarters and converted it into the new "Smart Center Boston'' showroom, a
bright modern space resembling an Apple store. And like Apple's iPod, Smart
Fortwo is embracing miniaturization and simple design.
"It's unbelievably good-looking,'' Chambers said. "It's so unique and people
like that in their cars.''
Offered in six colors, the Smart Fortwo enables customers to mix-and-match
different-colored body panels for an additional charge. The customized
appearance owes its inspiration to Nicolas Hayek, inventor of Swatch watches,
who approached Mercedes-Benz in the early 1990s with his idea for a trendy urban
car. Production began in 1998 in France, and sales began the next year in nine
Umer Iqbal, manager of Smart Center Boston, said the dealership expected most
customers would be environmentally-conscious younger people. But the dealership
has also received deposits from empty-nesters who have moved back to the city.
"They're looking for basic transportation,'' he said. "For most people, it's a
second or third car.''
Along with the base Pure model, Smart Fortwo offers a Passion Coupe model and a
Passion Cabriolet with a power convertible top that can be retracted at full
All three Smart Fortwo models are equipped with a three-cylinder, one-liter
engine that produces 71 horsepower.
Chambers acknowledged that one of consumers' biggest questions about the car is
how it holds up in a collision. The Smart Fortwo contains front and side
airbags, and a steel "safety cell'' designed to protect passengers. Occupants
sit about eight inches higher than comparable microcars, giving added side
Just don't take the Smart Fortwo on a shopping trip to Ikea: the luggage
compartment has less than eight cubic feet of storage space.
Just shy of
nine feet long--40 inches shorter than a Mini--the Smart For Two will be the
tiniest car in the U.S. when it goes on sale in January. Coupe or
convertible, this two-seater parks comfortably where others fear to tread;
company officials expect it to achieve 40 mpg. And the Mercedes-designed
Smart is no glorified golf cart: A stout steel safety cage, electronic
stability control and four airbags are big safety features for this
Wired reports that the tiny Smart ForTwo sub-subcompact is selling well in parts
of the country where it was not widely expected to be popular.
"While demand for the car is certainly strong in Philadelphia,
Boston, San Francisco, Portland and other congested blue-state cities, the
dealership in LaVista, Nebraska, has some 250 cars on order. ‘It takes about a
year to get your car', explains Andrea Falter, sales manager of the dealership
located just outside of Omaha."
While many thought the FortTwo was "not a car you'd expect to
see sailing across the wide open spaces of the American prairie," pre-order
sales "were high in Tulsa; Louisville; Albuquerque; Birmingham; Lindon, Utah;
Englewood, Colorado; and other red-state cities." The Boston Globe offers more
detail on sales of the "city car" in an interview with dealer Herb Chambers.
Herb Chambers reports that the ForTwo is selling for anywhere
"from $12,000 to $17,000."
He denies rumors that anyone wanting a Smart car will have to
join "a waiting list that stretches into next year," saying, "some customers
have not been able to take the car they ordered because of some change in their
situation, so there are a few available for purchase right now" in some areas.
Roger Penske, Jay-Z and Russell Simmons have a lot in
common. All three men know a good thing when they see one, and all are well
versed at turning that good thing into mountains of money. Thus, when Penske
gets behind something like the diminutive Smart fortwo, just like a Jay-Z or
a Russell Simmons venture, you know it's poised to pay.
And the little Smart fortwo is poised to pay big.
With oil teetering like Humpty Dumpty about to fall straight
into a $100 barrel, and gas at the pump feeling reasonable at $3.50 a
gallon, the Smart fortwo appears to be the answer to the question
everybody's asking. We say appears to be, because despite being the iPod
Nano of the automotive world, the Smart fortwo barely breaks 35 miles per
gallon--which can also be done in a Nissan Altima Hybrid, a Honda Civic
Hybrid, or a Toyota Prius.
All three of which are considerably larger and more
The beauty of the Smart fortwo though (if you'll pardon the
pun), is its cuteness, which, in no small measure (here we go again-sorry)
is directly attributable to its size. The Smart fortwo is so small you can
fit one sideways in a mall parking space. In fact, you can fit two of them
in that same parking space. A Mini looks iong parked next to the Smart
Inside though, it's a completely different story.
In what has to be the most efficient packaging feat ever
accomplished in a modern car, the Smart fortwo really is for two. Shoulder,
head, and legroom are business class, if not exactly first class. It's so
spacious, that after a driving it for a while, you forget how small the
Smart fortwo is.
Delivered in two states of trim--dubbed Passion and Pure by
the Smart fortwos's marketing team--the Pure version is the base car with
such niceties as an audio system and air conditioning optional. The Passion
model makes those items standard equipment. The lineup also encompasses a
convertible version, known as the Cabriolet. Being a Mercedes-Benz
product--fit, finish, materials and ergonomics go way beyond the exterior
stature of the Smart fortwo. Also, a nice choice of colors, shapes, and
fabric choices in concert with the ultra-hip styling and the placement of
controls and instruments lend the interior a nicely upscale look and feel.
On Wheels drove the Smart fortwo over the course of two days
in a variety of circumstances, around town, on the freeway, on winding
mountain roads, and down to the sea. Overall the Smart handled everything we
subjected it to with the poise and affability of pretty much any other car
you can think of. In fact, it was most remarkable for the fact that the
experience was relatively unremarkable. At one point, we were stuck for well
over half an hour in heavy morning commute traffic. Interestingly, we
experienced more psychological discomfort (with the traffic flow) than
physical discomfort with the Smart fortwo.
After all, what's not to love about a uniquely styled,
agile, rear engine, rear drive, two-seat German coupe with rack and pinion
steering and a manual transmission? Yes, we know we just described a Porsche
911, and while the fortwo is definitely no Porsche, it is fun like a
911--except in a different way. The Smart fortwo's 1.0-liter Mitsubishi
engine makes 70 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm and 63 lb/ft of torque at 4,500. It
runs remarkably smoothly, making entertaining sounds all the way up to
redline. It also cruises happily and smoothly at 5,000 rpm.
Power is transmitted via a five-speed "automated" manual
transmission. This means you shift gears, but you don't have to step on a
clutch pedal to do so. If you leave the Smart fortwo to its own devices, it
will eventually shift gears on its own. But there's a lethargic hesitation
that can leave you feeling mired in taffy between gear changes. We found the
best method was to shift the transmission ourselves using the paddles behind
the steering wheel, lifting off the throttle between shifts as you would do
if you were using a traditional manual transmission. At least then, the
hesitation felt as if you induced it, which made it a bit more bearable.
In urban settings, the fortwo is masterful at turning cracks
between parked cars into full-fledged parking spaces. One of the happiest
circumstances while driving in the Smart fortwo in urban traffic is finally
being able to slip past that inconsiderate individual who stops their car at
just the perfect angle to prevent you from making a right turn until they
lumber away after the light changes. Nearly any traffic congestion situation
that would impede the progress of the average car becomes an opportunity for
a triumph in the Smart fortwo.
Out on the highway, the Smart fortwo did display a bit of a
tendency to follow grooves in the pavement, but stability and acceleration
gave no cause for concern at all. In fact, it's fun running the little
1.0-liter up to its redline, popping off a couple of shifts with the paddles
and swooping into freeway traffic. OK, swooping was a bit generous. At 12.8
seconds to 60 from rest, efficiently melding might be a better description.
But once you're out there, the Smart fortwo holds its own.
Owing primarily to the spaciousness of the Smart fortwo's
interior, you never really feel vulnerable in highway traffic. Also, the
seating position is relatively high, so you're not eye level with the wheel
hubs of tractor-trailers on the highway as you are in sports cars. Of
course, given the fact at the fortwo hits its top speed of 90 mph rather
readily and cruises comfortably at 80, more often than not, you're passing
the trucks, not the other way around.
When we took to the mountains on our way out to the sea, On
Wheels found the fortwo happily engaged the winding roads, albeit displaying
a bit of understeer going into curves. Once we recognized this as the
Smart's entry posture, this trait was easily compensated for. After a few
miles of driving, a light rain shower made the roads go a bit greasy and the
Smart fortwo telegraphed this information to our seat and hands well before
we got into anything remotely resembling trouble. Braking was solid and the
suspension system kept the tallish Smart basically flat through the corners,
which inspired a lot of confidence. The Smart fortwo, while not a sports car
by any means, is nonetheless capable of turning in a reasonable performance
when called upon to portray one (so to speak).
Looking at the Smart fortwo, the first question that will
pop into many heads will probably be; "Is that thing safe?" And during our
two days with the Smart fortwo's marketing team, Mr. Penske and his crew did
their level best to convince On Wheels that was in fact the case. We saw
video of crash tests and rollovers that left the passenger cell of the Smart
fortwo completely intact. Exterior body panels--along with the front
wheels--were folding up big time in frontal impacts, but the part you sit in
was left undisturbed. Similarly, rear impacts incited no intrusions of the
engine or other mechanicals into the passenger compartment whatsoever. This
is due in no small measure to the tridion safety cell (which you will hear
all about if you get anywhere near a Smart sales center). Briefly, it is
said to protect you the way a walnut shell protects the nut within. Its
shape transfers impact energy away from the inside of the vehicle and gives
the Smart fortwo tremendous rigidity where it needs it most.
After absorbing all of this information, the fact that the
vehicle will survive a crash with larger vehicles (which is pretty much
everything on the road, except a motorcycle, OK?) is not in question by us
here at On Wheels. But, the way it folds up when it gets hit inclines us to
believe repair costs will be pretty high. And (in our opinion), given the
low price of the Smart fortwo, people who get into serious accidents in
these cars will, in all likelihood, get a new fortwo, because frequently,
the old one will be pretty much totaled.
On our last day with the Smart fortwo we drove around San
Francisco a bit and took the car where regular people could get up close and
personal with it so we could garner their reactions. Overall, they were
pretty positive and we even found a few people who had gone online at
www.smartusa.com and put down the $99 deposit to get on the list to be one
of the first people to take delivery of the Smart fortwo when it goes on
sale in January.
Pricing starts at $11,500 for the Pure and goes to $13,590
for the well-equipped Passion model. The Cabriolet starts at $16,590. And at
those prices, particularly when you factor in the "cute factor", the Smart
fortwo is going to sell faster than a hot new hip-hop album in the suburbs.
In other words, congratulations Mr. Penske, you're about to