#331 Smart Car? Dummkopf!
Dr. Z, Dieter Zetsche, fresh from his triumphal reign at Chrysler, is back with a car so small he could have imported it to the US by putting it on his back and swimming the Atlantic, and hardly gotten is moustache wet. A comical looking guy, with a comical looking car.
The Smart Car, they call it. Or, if that's too hard to remember, or you're not smart enough, simply "the Smart." It's a pocket car you can park anywhere. It carries two people, if they're not to big. It has no trunk, it has no back seat, and it barely has an engine. This engine-lessness can be an advantage. Helps with the gas milage. Under the hood is a little teeny gasoline powered sewing machine. Handy, if you rip your jacket squeezing into the "passenger" seat. Forty miles per gallon, city. Highway? Don't know. No one's ever dared drive this thing on a highway. Zero to 60 in 20 seconds. If there's a tailwind. And if the thing'll actually DO 60.
This is Germany's Great Automotive Hope. The car's a big hit in Berlin and in Paris. It will not be anything of the kind over here.
Fifteen, 16 grand for a two seater? We're not talking Miata, here.
To get an idea of how small this thing is, take eight steps from your wall. That's how big it is -- or isn't.
The grille is in the shape of a smile. It is more cartoonish than even the ultra cartoonish Mini Cooper. And it makes the Toyota Yaris (which gets just about the same milage but seats four and has room for a suitcase or two) look like a limo. Not a STRETCH limo, of course. But a limo nonetheless.
Wait until some eco-conscious celeb drives one of these things into a wall at ten miles an hour and dies. Wait for some Gomer to take this thing out on the Interstate and has a set-to with a Peterbuilt and ends up like a piece of aluminum foil with blood coming out. Bring on the lawsuits.
Somewhere in the back of Dr. Z's mind must be the idea that this will be the next Volkswagen Beetle. Good milage. Small. Cute. German. Wrong.
The original Beetle (a design collaboration between Ferry Porsche and Adoof Schicklgruber) was solid, easy to fix, cheap to buy, cheap to run. This (obviously designed by a German committee,) is none of that.
It's really designed for use in cities. This will place it in the company of, say, New York City taxis, UPS trucks, and fire fighting apparatus. You don't have a chance, got it?
You can get a Yaris or a Cobalt or the smallest Honda for the same price, and actually get a few bucks back if you live long enough to trade it in, which, chances are, you will.
It's hard to whip up sympathy for the sad sacks at Daimler. But in this case, you have to feel for them. They've put a ton of money into a toy that has one advantage and one only.
If you're in one and get hit, the lights'll go out fast and you won't feel a thing.
I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.