Penske Automotive Group, the second-largest dealer chain, has contracted to distribute the Smart and enlisted 73 dealers nationwide. Europeans have been driving Smarts for over ten years, during which time around 800,000 have been sold in 36 nations. The version set up for export to America will be made in France. Mr. Penske intends to sell a minimum of 30,000 ForTwos in 2008.
European models recently received four out of five stars in Euro New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tests.
The Smart is delivered in three affordable trim levels: base-level Pure, which at $11,590 lacks air conditioning and radio; Passion $13,590; and Passion Cabriolet convertible $16,590. And hey, it's hip. Smart already has the environmental brand image competitors try to buy with advertising. Tired of the color? Just unscrew the plastic body panels and replace with what ever hue is in. Will the market sustain Smart, which has never been profitable, after the new wears off? Yes, it's hip, it's fuel-efficient, and cost effective. But the "Smart" may not be the automotive shape of the future. Designers made compromises in order to meet safety standards: occupants ride high, at eye level with other traffic. The vertical posture distributes crash energy beneath the car. This creates a boxy large frontal area that hurts fuel efficiency.
Smart's very high drag coefficient of 0.38 causes fuel economy to fall in proportion to speed more quickly than other designs. While the ForTwo could be a start towards a spatially efficient America, the gas mileage is not significantly above Honda and Toyota 4-seat cars. With the 505 horsepower asphalt-ripping 2008 Chevy Corvette rated at 29 m.p.g. highway, 40 m.p.g. for a micro-car hardly qualifies as progress. In 1966 I bought a 1958 Morris Minor 1000 to drive to high school. It was initially designed in 1948. The Morris was hip, cheap, and fuel efficient.
That 60 year old design also went 40 miles on a gallon of gas.