In what can only be described as “The Biggest Waiting List Ever,” customers are lining up to reserve their Smart Cars, the pint-sized, planet friendly vehicle produced by automotive giant Daimler AG. (Mercedes)
The cute, if shockingly tiny, cars are starting to appear in Richmond.
And if you want in, take a number; you might be waiting for a year or more.
Here’s how it works: Interested buyers throw down $99 to join the Smart Reservation Program. Basically, the $99 gets you a place in line to buy the mini-car. Then buyers are given a reservation number, a configuration date (when the car is made), and the name of the Smart Center where their vehicle will be delivered. After that, it’s all about playing the waiting game. Buyers are contacted throughout the development process, and are notified when the car is ready and when it will be shipped to a nearby distribution center.
Prior to the Smart Car’s official arrival in the states, thousands of reservation requests poured in. More than 20,000 such requests were filed by December 2007. And since the car was not sold in the U.S. until January 2008, many of the people who reserved are still waiting for theirs to arrive.
As of July, approximately 13,958 Smart Fortwos have been sold in the United States. That equals out to about 2,000 per month. That figure is on pace to break the projected sales number of 20,000 cars by years end. However, the figure is misleading, as almost all of these “sales” have come from buyers who reserved Smart Cars up to a year in advance. Those who wish to buy a Smart Car now have no choice but to jump on the waiting list and hope for the best.
There are three Smart Car distribution centers in Virginia. The closest to Richmond is the Smart Center Virginia Beach. There are also distributors in Alexandria and Vienna, near Washington D.C.
The most popular version of the Smart Car, dubbed the Smart Fortwo, can get 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the freeway. It requires premium fuel, and although it was made for city driving, it can handle interstates and highways, provided you don’t drive much faster than 60 mph.
Prices for the Smart Fortwo start at $11,590 and top out at just under $20,000.
So…is it cute, or is it ridiculous?
Alec Depcrynski is a BizSense Staff Writer. He covers commercial real estate, retail and transportation. He does not own the vehicle mentioned here. Please email story tips to [email protected].