It looks like the Smart car is going to make a splashy debut in the U.S. market.
United Auto Group (Roger Penske's mega-dealer group) is importing the cars for DaimlerChrysler and already has cash deposits on more than 12,000 Smart Cars, which they started taking only a month ago. The cars do not even go on sale in the United States until January 1, 2008.
UAG had plans of selling 16,000 Smarts in all of calendar year 2008, so it is pretty likely that all of the vehicles could actually sell out in advance of a single Smart Car hitting the blacktop. Smart (Mercedes) says if they make their U.S. numbers and achieve their other now-scaled-back regional sales goals in the rest of the world, that Smart will actually be profitable.
Even as recently as 60 days ago, there were plenty of auto industry analysts and journalists that were saying that the Smart car was going to fall flat on its cute little face in the United States.
Their reasoning was that there were not enough buyers in the U.S. for a car like Smart - even when you combined all the urban hipsters, Europhiles, and fuel-economy freaks together, Smart still wouldn't make their 16,000 units.
We predicted 6 months ago that Smart would not only make their numbers, but exceed them in the first couple of years, and it looks like this is now going to happen - Smart's timing for entry into the U.S. seems to be pretty good. We're glad to see it as more choice in new cars is always good, and who knows, maybe it will provide a nudge to other automakers who are considering bringing in cars that fit into the mini or super-mini class.
In the same vein, everyone who was anyone also said you couldn't sell an upscale hatchback in the U.S., but the Audi A3 and the BMW Mini have put that notion to rest.
Maybe we'll see some more great small cars soon - those that exist now, and those that some manufacturers are considering for production.