Smart will begin selling its new model in the US in early 2008, which is old news but still good news. As a fashion item, it makes a lot of sense: it expresses anti-car sentiments very well and is as good a backlash against gargantuan SUVs as the original Volkswagen Käfer was against gaudy American cars.
I just think the trend has passed, though I could be wrong. Honda introduced its Fit to the US later than most markets and it’s doing really well as a subcompact. And the Americans won’t be too price-sensitive, something that limited the Smart City-Coupé’s (ForTwo’s) appeal when a Volkswagen Lupo sold for less at the turn of the century.
What might work better are two other cars that have hit the media over the last few years: Tata’s Rs. 1 lakh car, for which more details have crept out since my last post on it; and Volkswagen has said it will do a city car with an engine in the back, and it sounds like it’ll be priced low to suit. The package sounds interesting and it may be an innovative little vehicle.
Rohan has been kindly sharing reports from the Indian media about the Tata with me and I found a more recent one in the Economic Times there.
I think both these cars are more of the moment than the Smart, or even the new Fiat 500. The nuova nuova nuova 500 is a great car, and it will do well, but it ﬁts into the same little-car-is-fashionable sector as the Mini. Tata and VW express one added factor: they are almost social(ist) automobiles, mobilizing the masses and even ﬂipping the bird at the idea of corporate proﬁts. While they hail from corporations, their idea just seems that much more late-2000s, sort of the No Logo of cars. They are not just anti-car, but image-wise they appear to be against the idea of the corporation—and some customers may ﬁnd appeal to that.
The only thing that stops them from embracing the concept fully is that I understand both will remain powered by the internal combustion engine (with a diesel option). And, from what I know, neither are Federalized for US usage.
Posted by Jack Yan, 20:49
I always drive the fastest auto or motorcycle I can afford. Sadly it's not a Porsche or Ferrari yet.
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