An offshoot of Mercedes, Smart GMBH is developing what might be the anti-Mercedes: a tiny, plastic-bodied car designed (mostly) for urban commutes. Wired has an article describing the company, the vehicle, and their designs on the US market.
Abigail’s Smart Fortwo, which she has been tooling around Washington, DC, as part of a focus group, is engineered by Mercedes; an early model already sits in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. But behind Smart’s quirky design hides a radically sensible car. The Fortwo can park practically anywhere, even sideways in a compact garage spot. A diesel model, like Abigail’s, gets nearly 70 miles to the gallon, making supergreen hybrids such as the 55-mpg Toyota Prius look like gas-guzzlers. And this year, a major study ranked the Fortwo’s tailpipe the least polluting in the world, ahead of more than 1,200 cars.
Other features include snap-on replacement body panels (like cellphone faceplates), braking and traction control borrowed from Mercedes, and a miniscule price tag. Apparently, these are hot items in Europe, and are being sold out of giant glass ‘vending machines’; You can just buy one and drive off.
They’re getting ready for a US release, but it will (of course) be an SUV model to compete with the CRV and the Rav4. After years of progressively bigger gas-guzzlers, could the US be ready for the opposite end of the spectrum?
(I dig the little roadster.)