Friday, November 16, 2007

Smarty Pants

Baby You Can Drive My Car

On a trip to France a couple of years ago I saw many of the obligatory things that tourists see - the Eiffel Tower, the Left Bank, Cathedral Notre Dame, Louvre, and even took a day trip to Normandy. They all met or exceeded my expectations. But as in most of the European Union and many other parts of the world, cars are expensive to operate. At this writing we cry about the $ 3.00 per gallon mark but many Europeans pay double and nearly triple that amount. Of course it is called petrol and sold in liters instead of gallons so it doesn't seem so bad at the time.

I had read the Da Vinci Code, probably the most exciting and spine tingling book I'd ever read, and saw the movie with the female police officer who was tied to Tom Hank's character take him on ha harrowing ride in her little Smart car. I saw Smart cars all over Paris and thought how much sense they made as a commuter car. Of course, the fact that they made so much sense almost assured me that they'd never grace the shores of the good old U S of A. But I was wrong. Because of the perseverance and funding of forward thinking investors, it looks like we will be seeing them from the Streets of San Francisco to the land of Miami Vice. From Boston to Austin and beyond the little engines that say they could will be chugging along our byways. So I'd like to clear up a few myths about the put-put that is less than half the size of the bully boy Suburbans.

First off, while the Smart Car might be an intelligent answer to our petrol problems it is not that kind of smart. In 1989 Nicholas Hayek, the genius who founded the Swatch wristwatch line got together with the Mercedes folks and using the S from Swatch, the M from Mercedes, and the Art from the look of the thing, combined to make Smart. It is actually called the Smart ForTwo for the obvious reason.

And talk about downsizing! It looks like a souped up golf cart, can be parked head first, facing the curb in a parking space, has no hood and no trunk. It is rated at 40 mpg and manufacturers say the race-car type of bubble in which the driver and passenger sit make it safe even when tangling with your grandma's SUV. Panels can be easily switched out to give the car a different color. I can see it now - swap meets designed for Smart car owners to exchange parts and the look.

Nearly a million Smart ForTwo cars have been sold worldwide in 36 countries including Canada. Roger Penske, former racer and owner of Penske Automotive is behind putting together the network of US dealers. And the orders are overwhelming. We predict a hit. And not just with the Smart Car, but I'm sure Jan and Dean or the Beach Boys will do a song about the Smart-ty ForTwo.D

Dr. Forgot

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