2008 Smart fortwoEnlarge Photo
It's a car for the age of $4 gas--but even with gas falling back into the real-world range, Daimler AG's Smart Fortwo registered a strong first year on sale in the U.S.
Calling the Smart's first year U.S. sales of 24,622 units an "improbable success," Automotive News expresses surprise that Americans snatched up so many of the microcars from Daimler AG in the midst of a year that saw sales plummet for nearly all automakers. They point out, rightly, that microcars have never been big successes in America, making the strong sales of the improbable little 3-cylinder vehicle that much more surprising.
In an interview with Automotive News' Richard Truett, Smart president David Schembri claimed he'd be "very happy" if Smart were to equal its 2008 performance in '09 at 25,000 units, given the rough automotive market at present. He claims that those numbers work for the company and the dealer body in terms of profitability.
As to criticisms of the ForTwo's maligned automated manual transmission, Schembri contested that "most people call it fun." He said that there will not be a diesel offered in the U.S. Fortwo, citing problems with the expenses involved in U.S. homologation (there has been an ultra-efficient diesel model of the Fortwo in Europe).
He also says that as the company predicted, most Fortwos purchased in the U.S. are used as second or third vehicles. Next week in Detroit, Smart will be presenting a Fortwo visually modified by tuner Brabus. Also, Smart will be previewing an all-electric Smart in Detroit that is set to become part of its future lineup.
You can read the full story and see more photos of the 2008 Smart Fortwo over at our flagship site, TheCarConnection.com.--Colin Mathews