Order a Smart ForTwo. Wait One Year.

Despite its U.S. introduction earlier this year, the ultra-hip high-mpg Smart ForTwo is still a rare sight on American streets. It’s not for lack of interest from American car shoppers wanting the Smart ForTwo’s unique blend of style, efficiency, and affordability. More than 30,000 customers have placed an order and left a refundable $99 deposit. Unfortunately, those customers have been left in the dark about when their cool cute car will arrive.

Daimler, the Mercedes-Benz Company behind the Smart, was apparently caught by surprise by the level of interest in the vehicle. Deiter Zetsche, Daimler CEO, said those 30,000 pre-orders already exceed the planned first-year of production for Smart.

Smart USA, a distribution subsidiary of Penske Automotive Group, opened about 70 dealership across the country. But even those dealerships are uncertain about when the pre-orders will be filled. Nick Farelle, an independent contractor for Penske, told the Herald Tribune, “It’s impossible to say when the cars will be available at this point. There’s a bottleneck now since people began reserving them in 2007.”

The wait for the Smart ForTwo is reminiscent of the backlog of customers for the second-generation Toyota Prius in 2004 and 2005. Like the Smart ForTwo, the Prius has an eye-catching design, tops the charts for fuel efficiency, and made its debut in a period of rapid fluctuations in gas prices.

As with the Prius during its hottest periods, customers are reportedly offering as much as $5,000 over the asking price to move to the head of the waiting line. The Smart ForTwo ranges in price from approximately $12,000 to $17,000. “I’ve been offered all kinds of stuff if I can get someone in a car right away,” said Phillip Thrapp, the sales administrator for Smart Center Sarasota. Company policy does not allow customers to pay more for speedier delivery.

Long waiting lines are practically built into Smart’s ordering process. Customers go online to compare colors and options, and place orders at www.smartusa.com or at a Smart dealership—commonly shared with a Mercedes-Benz dealership—using a store computer rather than relying on a salesperson to place the order. Dealerships do not maintain an inventory of vehicles.

Penske executive won’t say how many cars they expect to deliver in 2008, and many customers on the waiting list are upset by the lack of information from the company. One such customer posted her grievances on the discussion forum at smartcarofamerica.com, an independent website for Smart enthusiasts. “I’m disappointed in Smart for the way the order and delivery process is being handled. It’s frustrating as Hades.” She added, “In the process how many potential serious buyers are they turning off in the whole process?” Despite the long wait, new orders are currently being accepted on the Smart USA website.


  • skeptic

    OK, if I’m going to drive something as tiny and goofly looking as that, it’d better get more that 41 highway!

  • Paul Rivers

    haha. I couldn’t agree more! :-)

  • BoomBoom

    I’ve seen them in Europe alot. They’re small, but well made. I’m still waiting to see how many people buy them. For the same money, you can get a Yaris Hatchback with much more room and 29/35 MPG. For the tiny size, you’d hope it got much better than a civic hybrid or a prius for MPG. The real appeal in Europe is parking and driving in cramped cities… Even Boston doesn’t have tight enough streets to justify a Smart.

  • mercsinc

    one stopped right beside me at a traffic light. the size is really worrying. i would like to see how it handles in the michigan snow…

  • Mark B

    I fear them because they are so small and different. I don’t want that thing in my country……..oh wait, that’s not my opinion that’s just your your typical American opinion. Sometimes, as an American I forget I have an open mind.

  • Dj Infam0us

    I’d buy one … if it could fit anything more than just me any head phones LOL! Never mind whether or not a couple of 18 wheelers whipping by would blow me off the road like a leaf.

    It’d make a good car for a kid who just needs to get from school to work to home. It’s cheep and gets decent gas mileage, but … I’ve seen other hybrids that get better mileage than that.

    I guess it being European makes it popular. Personally, I prefer functionality to trendiness.

  • Smarter than you

    The Smart is actually more roomy inside than many other compact cars, and it does handle welll in highway speeds with BIG TRUCK TRAFFIC.

    If you are worried about safety, check out the crash stats – impressive.

    Even though Americans are stupid and close minded and wasteful, the mileage is still horrid.

  • Tracy

    I talk to a woman in Austin, TX (5th to receive one in Austin) when I saw hers in the parking lot. She said she filled hers up and drove all over Hill Country (west of Austin) and achieve over 45 miles to the gallon. I am on the list for mine!

  • Sugarwithspice

    I currently drive a 2wd Ford Ranger – actual cab space is smaller than the Smart Car. Gas mileage is 22mpg and in heavy winds (especially on bridges) or when passing18 wheelers I must compensate for the lovely “blow me around like a leaf” effect. Snow results in an automatic day off – the poor girl just can’t handle it. Loved her when I bought her Florida, didn’t realize I would be in New England two years later.

    The Smart Car has better mileage, more cab space, and “supposedly” handles better in conditions that my pick-up truck cannot tolerate. The steel roll cage design and side air bags make it significantly safer than my current transportation.

    Savings in gas … not such a big sell. The overall savings over a Yaris during a year (assuming an average of 25,000 miles) is only about $250. Another drawback is that I “heard” that it is recommended to use premium gas over regular. I am waiting to hear back from the dealer on this. If this is the case, economically speaking, there isn’t much of a sell, just that it is really cute.

    Tough call. Safety speaking it tests better than an SUV but is the small space worth it?

    Single and looking for something cute – yes. However, if you are on a budget and gas prices are killing you – this purchase is questionable.

    Personally, still undecided.

  • t

    I’ve driven one in the snow (in the Alps, actually) – they’re fine, pretty much like any other small car. The rear drive isn’t really much of a problem since the engine is in the middle and the weight is pretty well distributed.

  • Smart Car of America

    As an admin at the largest smart car site in North American, it would be my sincere recommendation to avoid the $99 reservation and contact your local smart center dealership and request to be added to the orphan list. Many new owners are finding that they can usually get a car with in 3 weeks of joining these lists that are kept up on an individual basis at each dealership.

  • d man

    I cant wait to test drive this car. to be truthfull i wish it has better acceleration and some more hp because i live in phoenix and on our highways we usualy go 75+ and not to fond with the govonor switch giveing it a top speed of 90 not verry good but i plan on test driving the car to see how it works hopefully good.

  • omn1potent

    Its amazing that the Smart will NOT be released in Diesel or Hybrid in Australia, this is not what we wanted!

  • Matthew

    This my favorite car in the whole world!!! I fell in love with these cars when they first came out in Germany back in the late 90′s. Don’t worry about the size. I am 6’5, 220 lbs. and I fit comfortably with headroom to boot and plenty of leg room. Heated mirrors and seats – no worries for the winter – the car handles like a dream. Parking is amazing – one can actually park it perpendicular to the street if need be.
    4WD or Formula 1 – NO!
    City Car – Perfectly Yes!

  • Peter Andreasen

    If you have any doubts – try one. I have had one for three years and also have an FJ Cruiser. The FJ sits in the yard most of the time as given the choice, I will take the smart car every time. It is a hoot to drive, parks anywhere, and drives two weeks on 5 gallons of gas. It takes a week or two to learn how to get the most out of the transmission and when you do you can keep up with all the traffic and cruise all day at 85mph if your laws allow it.

  • Anonymous

    I have researched the Smart ForTwo, but can’t find any information on child safety in the Smart Car. Can you turn off the airbags? My four year old can ride in a booster seat, but I’m hesitate if the airbags are active.

    Any information is appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Mark
    mark.berenstein@gmail.com

  • Stefanie

    I love the Smart Car, we Americans tend to be afraid of anything that isn’t well marketed towards us. This car has the best gas mileage of any non-hybrid car on the market. Just wait until the boob-tube starts aiming towards all of you disbelievers, they’ll make you wish you got on the list last year.

  • Scotty

    I’m not uncomfortable with innovation. I bought a scooter during the Gulf War, drove a New Beetle with serial number <1,000 when they first came out, and I own an iMac and an Acer Aspire One. My wife knows I want a Smart, but she wants our next vehicle to be a Jeep Commander (*Zoiks!*).

    The thing I find so curious is the attitude I get when I try to talk about the Smart to my friends and associates. They tell me “It’s too small; I wouldn’t feel safe on the road with all the SUVs and HUMMERS out there”. Then I ask, “Well, when would you feel more comfortable giving up *YOUR SUV*, so everyone will feel less intimidated on the road and start buying small cars?” Their answer? “I’ll downsize after everyone else does.”

    We Americans have difficulty changing until we’re forced into change. We like to obtain “things”, and feel cheated when we can’t keep them. But let’s let gas hit $7 a gallon, as some analysts have already predicted, and see if they’ll change, when they’re forced to choose between shoes for their kids and driving their “road boats”.

    Sad.

  • Keith

    I could put one of these inside my Prius, and I’d still get 51 mpg. I’d have to fold down the back seets, though, probably.

  • jando flores

    ok the smart car is sweet but i saw on youtube that they have body styles like a lamborgini, a porshe, a corvette, and a audi awd

  • AaronRashod

    Have they seen the price trend of gasoline?? why are they so suprised at the interest in this vehicle!? Hell, give me one

    Check Me Out!