Weak Economy to Blame for ‘Orphaned’ Smart Cars?

Few things in life are recession-proof, and that includes the Smart Fortwo. Although sales of the little microcar are reportedly still strong, an increasing number of customers are canceling their orders.

Doing so creates “orphans,” a cute way to describe cars left on dealer lots. Those familiar with traditional dealerships may not perceive this as a problem, but it’s in stark contrast to Smart USA’s typical distribution process. Aside from demonstration cars, dealers can’t order cars to their dealership unless the car is ordered for a specific customer. Although exact orphans figures aren’t available through Smart, Automotive News quotes a dealer in Maryland as having nearly 48 orphans sitting on the lot. Another reported having 15 examples on the lot, nearly 2-3 times the number of orphans the store handled in 2008.

Why are customers dropping their orders? Some say it’s simply a matter of today’s weakened economy. Many customers were buying Fortwos as a second or third car – or, in some cases, “toys.” Such a move may not seem smart, if even possible, in today’s market. Still, those orphans aren’t wasted. Smart USA launched its “Smart Express” program in January to help match customers with unsold cars. Dave Schembri, president of Smart USA, still feels the brand is on track to sell 25,000 cars in 2009. Source: Automotive News

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