Friday, March 28, 2008

Smart fortwo: Cute, can't hold conversation

The Smart is here.
Oh, is it ever adorable. Those eyes, that sidestep, and that cute little butt? Are you kidding? Chalk up 200,000 units on looks.

But Smart cars will ultimately fail in the U.S. because they have no trump. They bring the cute, but nothing else. Cute doesn't sustain.

She may have a killer body and do-me eyes, but folks, if you can't stand to talk to her the next morning, she's not going to last long.

And once the shadows part, you can't stand to talk to this car.

You can take your lady with you, but you can't take the luggage for that long weekend. You can take your son to a ball game, but his friend will have to stay home. Stay off the interstates; you have neither the top speed nor the acceleration for them. Oh, and don't worry about all of those 5,000-lb. SUVs with which you're sharing the road.

Doubtless, it's easy to park. But how many half-spaces are out there? This is the U.S. we're talking about, remember. Might make some small sense in New York or Boston, but if you're there, how badly do you want a car anyway?

What about the cute...and a low price? That would work. If we were talking about a coupe at $7995 and a convertible at $9995, Smart's American future would be assured.

What about the cute...and incredible fuel economy? That would work too. At 60 or 70 mpg, Smart's a no-brainer.

What about the cute...and an unprecedented warranty? Say 10 years, unlimited mileage, bumper to bumper? Slam-dunk.

Alas, we are talking neither inexpensive ($12K and up), nor particularly thrifty (33 mpg city/41 mpg highway). And Smart brings the worst warranty in the business to the table (2 years/24,000 miles).

That's the price and fuel economy territory of things like the Toyota Yaris, the Nissan Versa, and the Honda Fit. All of these also offer "luxuries" like back seats, luggage room, interstate performance, and a chance of surviving that head-on with the Escalade.

Smart's got cute, and in spades. But there's nothing else. Among a substantial percentage of early Smart adopters, I predict slow, seething resentment at what could have been had for the proffered $12-17K. There will be thoughts of the weekend getaways that can't be, the foursomes that can't be driven to the concert, and the new television that can't be driven home. Yet every morning, that smiling face will greet...and grate. Finally, we'll see ads like this:

2009 Smart fortwo, 14K miles. Good shape except for the front end, which has been beat to hell with an aluminum baseball bat. Make offer.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like I'm better off with my Civic Hybrid!

Anonymous said...

Do you know that our father ordered one of these and is waiting on it to come in? Just checking.