Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

"Smart" Move? Pint Size Car With Big Buzz


Talk about a perfect time to market a fuel efficient sub-compact car. Gas prices are well over $3.00 a gallon. Sub-compact cars are hot. And if there's a new model the public has yet to see on the street, publicity will be huge. It's the perfect culmination of events that are helping to generate greater interest and "reservations" with car buyers around the country.

The new Smart fortwo (not a typo) sub-compact doesn't go on sale until early next year. But the buzz about this tiny car that's expected to get over 40 miles on a gallon, is big and getting bigger. Some of this is because Smart has done a masterful job of marketing this car with driving events on the West Coast. Those events will soon start in the Midwest, and by August will be hitting the East Coast. These driving events often include local TV station coverage, which adds to the publicity buzz. (Smart is a member of the Mercedes Car Group, a Daimler Chrysler  Company.)

So far, more than 21,000 people have put down a deposit of $99 to reserve a Smart car. Whether all of those 21,000 actually follow through and buy a car that will starts at under $12,000 remains to be seen. Still, there is buzz building across the country. as Dave Schembri, the President of Smart USA told me, "The creative class, the early adopters are the people we are hearing from. It's across the country. Over 60% from urban areas, but even in rural areas we are getting reservations."

Being new to the U.S. helps Smart. As does the fact that it's quirky look will appeal to people who want to be seen driving something different. Will Smart have staying power over time? That's hard to say. The Mini burst on the scene and remains popular. There's no reason the same can't be said for Smart.

Questions?  Comments?