ForTwo: Pretty Smart Or Obviously Dumb?

September 19, 2007 at 2:50 pm Leave a comment

It’s chic, affordable, fuel efficient and small. Are you amenable to the saying that big things come in small packages? Then, how would you adjudge the Smart ForTwo?

Some say it’s pretty smart. But other aficionados say the car’s obviously dumb!

What’s your verdict?

“Americans are begging for this car,” said Smart USA President David C. Schembri. To be more exact, it’s Americans living in cities along both coasts that seem most interested in getting a Smart, which starts at $12,000 and gets about 40 mpg.

Newsweek’s Tara Weingarten talked to Schembri about everything that’s Smart. Excerpts are as follows:

Q: In America bigger is better. People think it means safer, even if that’s not true. Who wants a bite-size car?

David C. Schembri: I love this question. The logical conclusion to that question is that we should all be driving locomotives or 18-wheelers. The answer is we should all be getting smaller, as every other market in the world has done, for a variety of reasons including safety, economy, environmental and urban congestion issues.

Q: Yeah, but really people aren’t forsaking the SUV. So are you dead meat if you’re hit while driving a Smart?

DS: Any time you’re hit by an SUV it’s a dangerous situation. It doesn’t matter what you’re driving. But the Smart will work hard to protect you. The safety management system of the Smart is a safety cell, a reinforced steel cage that acts very much like a NASCAR roll cage. And there are standard safety features that are usually found only in luxury automobiles, like the electronic stability program, four front airbags, including head and thorax protection, ABS brakes and something called electronic brake-force distribution that helps the car stop fast. This is a tough car. It’s David vs. Goliath.

Q: A recent Consumer Reports review of Smart claims it’s a very unsafe car. If you say it’s got all these safety features, what gives?

DS: They tested a car that was never intended for the American market. It was a European version and doesn’t have many of the stringent safety specs that are required here in the States. There are about 90 new parts on the American version that were not on the version Consumer Reports tested.

Q: Is this just a do-good-mobile that’s all marketing hype?

DS: Smart is light, just 1,750 pounds, and we’re seeing about 40 mpg combined city and highway driving, though it’s not yet rated by the EPA. You feel good driving it, and you start to feel a sense of social responsibility from it. I equate it with other natural resources. If you’re in a restaurant alone, you wouldn’t order dinner for five, would you? Why drive a car large enough for five people if you’re just driving alone? You can help out other drivers by taking up a smaller parallel parking space, consume less fuel, thereby helping the environment, and feel great about it. Why is that bad?

Make a smart choice.

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