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ZAP Smart Car Approved for Sale in the US 759

Posted by michael
from the you-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "ZAP's Smart Car has officially been approved by the EPA for sale in the United States. From the article: 'It was the last major regulatory hurdle the company faced.' Finally a 60 mpg car that can go 90 mph and look cool at the same time!!"
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ZAP Smart Car Approved for Sale in the US

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  • 90 MPH???? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Karzz1 (306015) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:39AM (#10923839) Homepage
    After seeing that car, I don't think I would want to go 90MPH in it....
    • I don't think I'd want to do any MPH in it. Is there some rule that says that no emission vehicles can't look good?
    • Re:90 MPH???? (Score:3, Informative)

      by DigitumDei (578031)
      We've had the Smart car in South Africa for about a year now. And yes I have to agree, I would not ride in one of those cars on a freeway.

      That said, parking is not a problem in one of them.
      • Hmm.. considering the rampant drunk driving, carjackings, "fishing"-style robberies (robbers standing on a bridge that goes over a motorway in order to be able to pick off cars by means of a well aimed throw of a suitably sized concrete block) etc. etc. neither would I.

        hehe.. out of curiosity - can you get them with white walled tyres? guess you could fit a good dozen of ppl in it and call it a taxi! ;-)

        But I was under the impression that these things dont really happen that often in the US.. or..? /m
      • Re:90 MPH???? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by golgotha007 (62687) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:39AM (#10924284)
        That said, parking is not a problem in one of them.

        No kidding. One of the highlighs of this car is that it's as long as a normal car is wide.

        Therefore, to park you can just pull straight in, putting the front end (or rear) of the car parallel to the street.

        For urban parking woes, it doesn't get any better.
        • A friend with a BMW Isetta [cqql.net] (the little one, not the bloated 600cc version) gets tickets in San Francisco for parking perpendicular to the curb, never mind the fact that the car is designed for it. Until the cops are clued, the law doesn't matter as long as paying a parking ticket is less costly than fighting it, if your time is worth anything.

          • A friend with a BMW Isetta (the little one, not the bloated 600cc version) gets tickets in San Francisco for parking perpendicular to the curb, never mind the fact that the car is designed for it.

            Isetta. Now that's a scary car. There's no crush space at all in those things, and the handling is horrible - especially the smaller 3-wheeled version. But they're a fun car - I'd love to have one because the BMW logo on it would piss off snobs.

            Until the cops are clued, the law doesn't matter as long as paying

    • Re:90 MPH???? (Score:5, Informative)

      by roy23 (159499) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:56AM (#10923975)
      We have one and regularly go 90 mph on the motorways here. It's fab. The only reason they don't go more than 90 is that they have a speed limiter. You can get them chipped however...
      http://www.smarttune.co.uk/tuning.htm [smarttune.co.uk]

    • by The_Rift (257762) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:00AM (#10924010)
      I was given one of these as a replacement car when mine was being serviced.
      I took it out on the motorway round Brussels and while it's a lot like driving a hair dryer it is suprisingly comfortable.
      I wouldn't want to do any long motorway trips in one though, but then that really isn't what the designers intended either.
      I'd have preferred a manual gearbox (smart forfour is the only smart with this as an option) but that won't be an issue in the US.

      One thing I noticed is nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, can stand being overtaken by one of these.
    • by technogogo (708973) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:46AM (#10924343)
      The main motoring TV program in the UK, Top Gear [bbc.co.uk] recently showed crash tests involving the SMART car, which is designed with a one piece, very strong passenger shell. The car stood up very well in these tests.

      One of the tests shown was an offset head on impact with a Mercedes S-class. Can't recall the speeds, but the combined speed was high. The front of the s-class was seriously smashed in by the smart car. The front of the smart car too was a mess BUT crucially the passenger compartment of the smart was intact and the occupants would have escaped serious injury.

      However, because the passenger shell of the SMART car is so strong and stiff, some tests have shown high passenger loads due to restraints. No doubt due to the small crumple zones on the vehicle.

      So I guess if you hit something in a SMART, hit something with a crumple zone that you can share!

  • Old known in Europe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:39AM (#10923841)
    In Europe we've seend this cars since probably 5 years ago. Right now there are getting popular the new SMART FORFOUR, which offers 4 places in an also reduced space. I think here it was distributed together with either BMW or Mercedes. Haven't heard anything about that "ZAP" thing...
    • by RupW (515653) *
      In Europe we've seend this cars since probably 5 years ago. Right now there are getting popular the new SMART FORFOUR, which offers 4 places in an also reduced space.

      Yeah, they've been around in the UK for five years now and they're still not that common (and I get to see both the South East's countryside and London).

      That's not to say they're bad cars - they're basically two-seat Mercedes A-classes, I think, and I was impressed with the A-class when work hired me one. But I'd want more room.
    • Yeah, in the UK it's distributed by Mercedes, and I think they had quite a lot to do with building/designing it too...

      Oh, no, having checked the Smart site [thesmart.co.uk] it's actually part of Daimler/Chrysler.
      • You don't follow the auto industry much, do you?

        Mercedes is actually Mercedes-Benz, which was a part of Daimler-Benz, which merged with Chrysler corporation to make Daimler-Chrysler. So Maybach, Mercedes, Chrysler, and Dodge cars all come from the same parent corporation. (Don't ask about Ford, they're even worse.)

        --Ender
    • by tincho_uy (566438)
      In fact, it's a joint venture between Daimler-Benz and Swatch (yes, the watch makers), IIRC. It's got Mercedes technology under the hood, and the design is from Swatch ( check http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/pw/05smartc abriolet.htm [canadiandriver.com] for the new cabriolet version)
  • for real ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    serioulsy this wasn't already been sold in the US ????
    it'll like 5 years old in europe, third gen model are shipping now
  • zap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kratos (782381) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:41AM (#10923848) Homepage
    I believe it folds up into a briefcase for you to take in to the office once you finish your drive. ______ Kratos
  • by Dynamoo (527749) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:41AM (#10923850) Homepage
    The FourTwo is OK, but I just got myself one of these babies [thesmart.co.uk].. a Smart Roadster Couple Brabus. Pretty much all of the fuel ecomomy and a top speed of 120mph. Sorted. Oh yes, you cant't get them in North America for at least a couple of years.. heheh :)
    • Coupé I meant!
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:41AM (#10923855) Homepage Journal
    if you want a smart car, I'd buy some shares, they are very good about incentives on products to shareholders.
    • ZAP! = Pump n Dump (Score:4, Informative)

      by microcars (708223) on Friday November 26, 2004 @12:07PM (#10925036) Homepage
      "if you want a smart car, I'd buy some shares"

      What? If you want the car, buy some shares of ZAP! ?
      What kind of nonsense is that? You must work for ZAP!
      So just how MANY shares of ZAP! stock should I buy to get to the top of the waiting list to get a SMART ForTwo?

      ZAP! exists not to sell cars, but to pump up their stock price.
      These cars are imported by a Registered Importer [gnkauto.com] and converted to US Standards for resale to US Citizens. Overseeing the import and conversion is a company named "Smart-Automobiles LLC" which has NO CONNECTION to Mercedes Benz / DaimlerChrysler.
      They have to buy these things RETAIL in Europe, bring them over to the US, convert them, then ZAP! sells "dealerships" and "franchises" across the country and then the "dealer" takes his cut. No wonder the price is so high.

      ZAP! exists merely to sell franchises and dealerships [zapworld.com] for a brand they do not own the rights to.

      You cannot buy a Smart ForTwo from ZAP!, you can only buy a dealership.
      Despite their advertising claims, ZAP! does NO CONVERSIONS, they are nothing but a bunch of marketing droids in an office trying to get people to think they are a "real" company that actually produces some sort of product.

      Here is a conversation [fark.com] on FARK where a few people (including a former employee apparently) pull back the curtain on ZAP!

      Here is one quote from the conversation:

      The SMART car may be a good idea, but don't buy it from ZAP. They exist for the sole purpose of pumping up their stock price so a few big investors can dump them before any serious shareholders know what happened.

      MB / DaimlerChrysler plans to introduce the SMART BRAND to the US with a 2006 model that is a small SUV,built in Brazil called the ForMore, from that point they may introduce a re-designed version of the ForTwo for the US / World market.

      It will be interesting to see what happens when the "real" [smart.com] SMART Brand comes to the US and whether all these ZAP! dealers get hit with a restraining order to cease advertising or dealing a Brand they do not have the rights to.

      • I had 22 shares in my IRA once upon a time.

        occasionally, they sent me snail mail spam that included shareholder only discounts on their products.

        it was a 'green' smidge in my IRA that cost me about 150$ total.. I don't however work for them- or have any connections with them whatsoever... nor do I know that such is still a practice with them.

  • by JamesD_UK (721413) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:41AM (#10923857) Homepage
    How about a a 90 mpg car that can go 60 mph? Wouldn't that better progress?
    • by idiotnot (302133)
      Perhaps in Europe, but not in the US. Where I live, speed limits under 35mph are confined to residential areas. Most in-city streets are 40 or 45, and the highways' traffic flows somewhere between 60 and 70, depending on the time of day. One of these roller skates wouldn't be able to keep up.
      • by OblongPlatypus (233746) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:28AM (#10924212)
        Perhaps in Europe

        Ahem.. you do realize Europe contains, for example, Germany? Where the Autobahn has no speed limits whatsoever, and the traffic flows accordingly? And the most common maximum highway speed limit in other European countries is, in my experience, 120 km/h, which is 75 mph.
      • the highways' traffic flows somewhere between 60 and 70, depending on the time of day

        I've driven across many of the states in the US, and I've yet to find any place where there aren't Semi trucks on the road, going slower than the rest of the traffic.

        In CA it's de jury, but most everywhere else, they just can't get up to 75 with all the weight, up a slope, into the wind, etc. It's a miserable experience to be behind a couple trucks as one decides to go into the open lane an gradually pass the other truck

  • Real Website (Score:3, Informative)

    by diablero (50462) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:42AM (#10923863)
    Smart car are made by Smart [smart.com]
  • "Zap"??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tet (2721) * <slashdot@astradyn[ ]o.uk ['e.c' in gap]> on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:42AM (#10923864) Homepage Journal
    From the Smart homepage:
    Smart is manufactured and marketed in Europe by an unaffiliated party and made US/CA compliant by DMC.

    That "unaffiliated party" is Mercedes Benz (and hence ultimately, Daimler Chrysler). I wonder why they don't seem to want to market it themselves, and are relying on Zap instead. Worried about it being a flop in the US and not wanting to damage their reputation, perhaps?

  • by UnderAttack (311872) * on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:43AM (#10923872) Homepage
    Is this the same 'SMART' car as the one sold by Mercedes in Europe? Sure looks like it, but I can't see any reference to that.
  • erm ..... no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thempstead (30898) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:43AM (#10923873)
    We've had these, or things that look just like these in the UK for quite some time. Looking cool in, IMHO, would not really be possible .... and of course there is the question that people ponder over about whether if one was stopped suddenly it would start rolling end of end .... :)

    t
  • by cbqwinner (152547) <ericgeib@backinj e r s e y . com> on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:43AM (#10923874)
    If this thing looks "cool" to you, I'd hate to see what wasn't cool....
  • by idiotnot (302133)
    Great. Y'all run out and buy one. I'll stick with a real vehicle. 20 miles a gallon doesn't bother me too much.

    Can't Honda bring something like the CRX back? Didn't those get like 55mpg, while being a halfway substantial car (albeit for only two people)?

    As for its appearance, "cool" is a very subjective term.
  • by davejenkins (99111) <slashdot@davejenkin s . c om> on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:47AM (#10923903) Homepage
    I have already seen some posts about how "dangerous" these cars will be in the states when sharing the road with the "killer" SUVs and such-- but let me dispell some prejudices:

    1. SMART cars are essentially big roll cages with coverings for the hood, door, and roof. They are quite safe for the riders should there be an accident. Moreover, they are engineered to "bounce" away from an oncoming impact.

    2. With the engines placed as they are, a front-end collision does not put the block in the drivers lap (and crush his legs).

    3. I would much much much rather be in one of these than some crumplicious dwarf from Ford
    • by Anonymous Coward
      WTF, are you stupid?

      It's usually not the external impact that kills you. It's your organs getting bashed around inside your body. Remember, your organs are moving at 40 MPH along with your body. If your body suddenly starts "bouncing" around that's the worse possible action. A hard roll cage design just is not a good idea in low speed (60 MPH) accidents.

      In a collision the vehicle with more mass wins. Even a little Ford Escort has a 2 to 1 weight advantage against this Zapper thing.

      Trust me, you don
    • by sifi (170630)
      They may very well remain fully in tact - but just as cruical in a crash is the deceleration rate of the occupants. The "bounce" would only serve to make this worse.

      What it lacks are crumple zones which reduce the deceleration rate.

      The ideal design for a safe car is a large crumple zone (=length) with a ridged cage to protect the occupants.
  • Comparison... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:50AM (#10923919)
    If I was in the market for a 2-seat super-efficient car, why would I buy one from a manufacturer that has limited support/service options?

    Compare the Zap to Honda's Insight
    http://automobiles.honda.com/models/model _overview .asp?ModelName=Insight
    60/66 mpg city/highway
    (I can't view the Toyota Prius because of evil plugin-requirements.)

    Honda, has a proven track record of quality automobiles.
    Zap, in Europe? I don't know. Colour me ignorant.
  • by jcupitt65 (68879) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:51AM (#10923934)
    For a holiday with my missus driving around Southern Germany looking at stuff. It could cruise at 80mph, there was plenty of headroom (I'm 6'4", but had several inches spare over my head), enough room for luggage, it all felt slick and solid. I did have to ensure some scoffing about my lack of manliness from German friends though :-( I calculated fuel efficiency at the end of the week and it was ~67 mpg.

    On the downside because the car is rather high and narrow (think two mopeds bolted together side by side), I'm told they can be scarey in side-winds.

  • Very Popular (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HeyBob! (111243) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:51AM (#10923937)
    In Canada, Mercedes isn't even marketing them - there's a long waiting list, without them even spending a dime on advertising.
  • by mccalli (323026) on Friday November 26, 2004 @09:59AM (#10924004) Homepage
    I can see a lot of negative comments at the moment, so I thought I'd add my own (UK-based) opinion.

    I've always been an in-principle fan of these SMARTs. I haven't driven one, but I've been inside one at various motor shows and there's plenty of space for two plus shopping or weekend luggage. You're not going to go trans-America with it, but to think about in that way is missing the point.

    It makes an excellent city car. There are a decent number kicking around in London, and I seem to remember seeing even more when I was Hamburg a few years ago. In the city, you don't care about 90mph, you care that you can pull out nippily, find a parking space and turn round. This is the best answer I've seen since the original Mini (or maybe the Renault Twingo - never did understand why that didn't make it to the UK).

    I'm actively considering swapping a Jaguar X-Type for one. Reason? My car mainly drives me to the train station in the morning and back, and a Jag is total overkill for that. We have an S-Type also for weekend trips or serious travel...why have two cars that do the same job? Only thing holding me back at the moment is a concern about its ability to cope with bad weather.

    No, I'm seriously interested in these.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • by aug24 (38229) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:30AM (#10924218) Homepage
      I recommended a couple I know to try these out a few years ago, on the same 'in principle' bit as you. They tried it (Frank was very sceptical), loved it (the bit where he changed his mind was doing a U turn in a normal road instead of a 3-point), bought one. Then his bro and bro-in-law got one. Then some friends... you see where I'm going.

      They are every bit as good as you think. They are totally stable, comfortable and customiseable, safer than many other 'normal' cars both for those inside and any peds you might hit, and you get big smiles from people - tops!

      Justin.
  • by ear1grey (697747) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:08AM (#10924065) Homepage
    Having owned one of these for a few years, may I suggest a few plus points, tailored for slashdotters.

    0. the cup holder is large enough for a thermally efficient coffee mug.

    1. the boot area is large enough for two laptop rucksacks and an overnight bag, perfect for commuting.

    2. the passenger seat can be folded flat, providing enough space to easily transport both a 22" monitor and an Extended ATX case.

    3. with the iMove centrepiece, you can plug your iPod into it.

    4. the soft top has a remote control.

    6. this lanky geek (196cm 98k) finds it spacious - more roomy than say a Ford Mondeo (IIRC called a Galaxy over the pond).

    7. it can be powered down in the tiniest of spaces
  • by edo-01 (241933) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:10AM (#10924083)
    There's at least one of these cars being used by the New South Wales police here in Sydney and it's painted just like a regular cop car.

    It drove past me once as I was walking to lunch in the city, the sight of two cops in this thing made me and a lot of other people piss ourselves laughing :-)

    You could tell the cops felt like dicks in it, they just had these sheepish grins on their faces...

  • City Driving (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tomahawk (1343) * on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:11AM (#10924093) Homepage
    This car is designed purely for city driving. It's a 2 seater car, and when you actually see them up close, they are really dinky.

    Personally, I think they are great. I probably wouldn't have one as an only car, but have it as a second car for city driving only.

    Seemingly the majority of cars caught speeding in London are Smart cars. Only in the UK and here they are Mercedes Smart cars (designed by the Swatch people, no less).

    T.
  • Gotta chime in (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bowdie (11884) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:12AM (#10924098) Homepage
    (UK) I took delivery of a Smart ForTwo two weeks ago, and the grin still hasn't left my face.

    They're superbly well made, very very quick off the mark. I grew up driving Minis (proper minis, not those funny BMW things) and this Smart is the logical progression.

    On the bad side, they're noisy when you stick your foot down hard, the traction control is a bit keen in places, and the standard stereo system blows.

    Other than that, I could not be happier. Please take one for a test drive before you judge!
  • by 2$ Crack Whore (813937) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:22AM (#10924157) Homepage
    Here in Europe it has been possible to buy 60mpg cars that will do 90mph+ for years...I really don't see how this is a revelation. Most new hatchbacks (especially the turbodiesels) can do this. Hell my 15 year old Peugeot 205 can do 55mpg.

    This is not a troll but it would be really nice when certain parts of the world realise that having a 2.5 tonne behemoth that barely can get 5mpg is just not a smart idea.
    • However, until the USA switches to low-sulfur diesel fuel completely in September 2006, you can forget about buy turbodiesel-powered small cars here in the USA.

      But I do think that Honda will sell turbodiesel-powered small cars here in the USA by 2007. Imagine a second-generation Honda Fit powered by a 1.4-liter I-4 i-CTDi turbodiesel engine getting 60+ miles per US gallon fuel efficiency! =)
    • by CdBee (742846) on Friday November 26, 2004 @11:10AM (#10924519)
      Audi's A2 has a 3L model which is so named as it can do 100km on 3 litres of fuel - it's a 1.2 litre turbocharged 3-cylinder diesel. The Volkswagen Lupo is available with the same engine. [volkswagen...ronment.de] Both are more substantially-built cars which feel safer than a Smart - although Mercedes-Daimler-Chrysler's marketing shows that the Smart may easily be as safe in an accident - refer to earlier posts with more detail.

      The only real innovation of the 2-door Smart is that its an efficient Petrol car (overcoming a seeming aversion to Diesel in the US market) and is much easier to drive in tight spaces.
    • by Johnny Mnemonic (176043) <mdinsmore.gmail@com> on Friday November 26, 2004 @11:17AM (#10924570) Homepage Journal

      Americans are adverse to diesel, even TDI, for historical reasons. There's been some talk that they're going to try to reintroduce "next-gen" TDI cars in the next few years; how they do in the US market will determine how many more diesels are marketed here in subsequent years.

      So the closest we can get to 60mpg is the Prius, which is selling like hotcakes. I think the Smart Car will have a specific demographic, but will do well in those markets: I forsee a lot of them going to big metro areas. But they probably won't do so well in Texas.
      • by Dread_ed (260158) on Friday November 26, 2004 @01:03PM (#10925560) Homepage
        I work in a MINI Cooper dealership in Texas and I can definitely say that the Smart Cars will do quite well here.

        There is a huge backlash against SUVs in Texas, and not by those granola munching tree huggers that everyone hates to stand next to on the bus, but by the much maligned Soccer Moms and Neo-yuppies that have kept the SUV business growing over the last few years. It seems that people that live in urban areas and that have owned a SUV would rather not have one again. I can't tell you how many people trade in F250 crew cab trucks, Suburbans, etc. here for MINIs.

        Personally, I think that the fact that everything in Texas is so spread out and requires so much driving to get to will accelerate the demand for smaller more fuel efficient cars here, especailly when coupled with the rising cost of fuel.

        I can cite a couple of things to back this up: A two to three month wait for a new MINI in Texas, a 8-10 month (maybe!) wait for a new Prius in Texas. In addition, I talk to quite a few people each week that not only know about the Smart cars but who also want to own one.

        I will concur that in the more rural areas you won't see many of these, but that will be common to all places, not just Texas.

  • Cute yes, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday November 26, 2004 @10:58AM (#10924414)
    ...Why bother.

    Especially with Honda about to introduce the Honda Fit here in the USA within next 18 months.

    For those who don't know, the Honda Fit (known as the Jazz in Europe) is an very small car that has just as much interior room as a Honda Civic sedan and is quite a bit more fuel efficient than the Civic, especially when powered by the 1.3-liter I-4 i-DSI engine. Honda has publicly said that they will sell a car smaller than the Civic in the USA market soon, especially since Honda will design the next-generation Honda Civic due in September 2005 for a more upmarket type of buyer; the Honda Fit will fill the gap for first-time Honda car buyers here in the USA. However, note that the Honda Fit Americans will get will NOT be the current model sold in Japan and Europe, but a slightly-larger second-generation model designed with larger-sized American passengers and side-curtain air bags in mind; that new model is supposed to be unveiled in Japan this coming summer.
  • by brad3378 (155304) on Friday November 26, 2004 @12:39PM (#10925301)
    ....some redneck yanks that 60 mpg powertrain and replaces it with a 500 HP smallblock?
  • Alternatives? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rainman_bc (735332) on Friday November 26, 2004 @04:47PM (#10927131)
    Why not get an echo that gets ~55 mpg if you want cheap, or a VW Golf TDI that gets ~90 m.p.g. instead (both IIRC)?

    Neither look as lame as the smart car IM.
  • by mishmosh (834857) on Friday November 26, 2004 @08:06PM (#10928139)
    While you'd be more protected in a crash in an SUV than in a compact, SUVs are far more likely to get into an accident in the first place due to reduced maneuverability and larger size. Also, some SUVs are classified as trucks, which means they don't have to meet the auto body safety standards of passenger vehicles. "Drivers of the tiny Jetta die at a rate of just forty-seven per million, which is in the same range as drivers of the five-thousand-pound Chevrolet Suburban and almost half that of popular S.U.V. models like the Ford Explorer or the GMC Jimmy." --Malcolm Gladwell, http://gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html [gladwell.com], which also includes a full chart of fatalities-per-million drivers of the most popular cars in the US.

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