Smart in the U.S.? Automobile Magazine Staffer Opinions

Sam Smith, Assistant Editor:
Personally, I think they're smoking their own ear wax to believe they can actually make some sort of viable profit off these little rugrats--at least in this country. How many problems have they had in Europe? How many unsold Smart variants (Smart Roadster, anyone?) sat on dealer lots for an eternity and a half? Yes . . . wait . . . I have it! Bring it to America! Small cars always work in America! Especially quirky ones with limited practicality and tiny, wheezy powerplants! Genius! Promotions all around!Something tells me there'll be this great big initial sales spike, a massive amount of media coverage, and then a tailing-off into nothing. That's how fads work, isn't it? What's the sales prediction? How many tens of thousands are they thinking they'll offload? Hipsters in New York, Chicago, and L.A., rejoice: Your next accessory has arrived, you fashion-conscious freaks. Maybe this just means that in ten years, when unwanted used Smarts flood the U.S. market, hotrodders will have something else to stuff a V-8 into for pennies on the ounce. I want an LS7-powered ForTwo--I have sneaking suspicions that if I dump the clutch hard enough, the thing'll land on its roof. How cool would that be?

Erik Johnson, Assistant Editor:
My gut reaction is that they'll sell well in L.A. and New York--they might even sell a few in Chicago--but 20,000 units seems like a tall order for a car that seats just two, has little to no cargo capacity, and will make most drivers feel extremely vulnerable in The Land of Huge Vehicles. This thing will need to be c-h-e-a-p to do well; I'm talking $10,000 to $12,000.

Dieter and Roger love their Fortwo

I hear they actually bounce off stuff like ping-pong balls--maybe any unsold inventory can get turned into the next generation of dodge-'em cars?

Molly Jean, Art Director:
I think that in small college cities in blue states, here in Ann Arbor, for example, two or three people may buy them, but I do not think a single one will be sold in a red state.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor:
Of course people will buy Smarts. They are cute, distinctive, seemingly fuel efficient and ideally suited for urban life where parking costs are by the inch. With the combined might of DaimlerChrysler (code for Mercedes) and Roger Penske, Smarts will be 2008's Mini. By then, $3/gallon gasoline will be a fond memory. Real Minis will be old hat. Monster SUVs--Suburbans, Hummers, Navigators and the like--will be social outcasts. As long as the base price is below the national average for new cars--say $25,000--Smarts will go hotcake for 1-2 years. The bluehairs will perceive them as streetlegal golf carts. GenYs will trade in their xBs. Wealthy surbanites will use them for train cars because they consume the same garage space as a motorcycle. American consumers are always anxious to adopt anything new with wheels because this is the easiest, most convenient way to say: I am super cool, I've got what you don't, and you are a dork for missing this turn of events.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
Gas would have to go to $5 a gallon for the forTwo to be anything but a sideshow oddity in America. Nose-in street parking isn't allowed here, so that advantage is void. They're hoping smart will sell at half the volume ofMini; I say, "Good luck." Sure, they'll sell a few to shopping mall security staffs, meter maids, and as Red Bull promotional vehicles, but after that who's going to buy them?

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor:
I'm not convinced that Smarts will sell very well outside of Toyota Prius-happy places like California, the Northeast, and Ann Arbor. But the sales success or failure of the gasoline-powered, lilliputian Smart should help reveal whether Americans are really willing to change their automotive preferences in light of the Gasoline Drama--or if they're OK paying fancy-dinner-for-two money to fill up their giant trucks every couple-hundred miles or so.

They'd better sell the Roadster here; that thing is about forty times cooler than the goofy-looking Fortwo.

Joe DeMatio, Senior Editor:
The typical buyer of the Smart ForTwo in the United States will be a 28-year-old woman who is employed by a Web-services company or a marketing agency and who lives in a loft apartment or condo in one of the following four neighborhoods: Brooklyn's Williamsburg; Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle; Chicago's Lincoln Park; or San Francisco's SoMa.

Stuart Fowle, Web Producer:
Dieter and Penske think they can make the Fortwo into the iPod of automobiles. The problem is, Mini has already claimed that title. Instead, Smart will be the Creative Labs or iRiver of cars. They'll sell a few, but its less usable and less stylish than the competition, including the Mini Cooper, the Honda Fit, and the Scion xB. Smart should have been here a few years ago with the Formore SUV they promised. People might have actually bought that.

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