The Southwest Portland Post. (Portland, Oregon) 2007-current, October 01, 2008, Page 9, Image 9

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

    October 2008
The Southwest Portland Post • 9
EarthTalk TM
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: I’ve suddenly
been seeing a lot of those tiny
“Smart Cars” around. Who makes
them and what is their fuel efficien-
cy? And I’m all for fuel efficiency,
but are these cars safe?
- David Yu, Bend, OR
Originally the brainchild of Leb-
anese-born entrepreneur/inventor
Nicolas Hayek of Swatch watch
fame, Smart Cars are designed to
be small, fuel-efficient, environ-
mentally responsible and easy to
park—really the ultimate in-city
Back in 1994, Hayek and Swatch
signed on with Daimler-Benz (the
German maker of the venerable
Mercedes line of cars) to develop
the unique vehicle; in fact, the com-
pany name Smart is derived from a
combination of the words Swatch,
Mercedes and the word “art.”
When initial sales were slower
than hoped for, Hayek and Swatch
pulled out of the venture, leaving
Daimler-Benz full owner (today
Smart is part of Mercedes car divi-
sion). Meanwhile, rising oil prices
have driven up demand for Smart
vehicles, and the company began
selling them in the U.S. earlier this
Measuring just a hair over 8 feet
long and less than five feet wide,
the company’s flagship “ForTwo”
model (named for its human carry-
ing capacity) is about half the size
of a traditional car.
The U.S. Environmental Protec-
tion Agency (EPA) rates the car’s
fuel efficiency at 33 miles per gallon
(mpg) for city driving and 41 mpg
on the highway (although actual
drivers report slightly lower re-
sults). Three ForTwos with bumpers
to the curb can fit in a single parallel
parking spot.
And with soaring gas prices, the
cars have been selling like hotcakes
in the U.S. The company’s U.S. dis-
tributor is working on importing
an additional 15,000 cars before the
end of 2008, as its initial order of
25,000 vehicles is almost depleted.
Some four dozen Mercedes Benz
dealers across the country have long
waiting lists for new Smart vehicles,
which sell for upwards of $12,000.
As for safety, the ForTwo did
well enough in crash tests by the
independent Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety (IIHS) to earn the
group’s highest rating—five tars—
thanks to the car’s steel racecar-style
frame and liberal use of high-tech
front and side airbags. Despite such
good safety performance for such
a tiny car, IIHS testers caution that
larger, heavier cars are inherently
safer than smaller ones.
Beyond safety concerns, some
analysts bemoan the ForTwo’s
price tag as unnecessarily high
given what you get. The cars are
not known for their handling or ac-
celeration, although they can go 80
The EPA rates the Smart Car’s fuel efficiency at 33 miles per gallon for city driving and
41 on the highway. Three Smart Cars with bumpers to the curb can fit in a single parallel
parking spot. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)
miles per hour if necessary.
The website
suggests that eco-conscious con-
sumers might do better spending
their $12,000 on a conventional
sub-compact or compact car, many
which get equivalent if not better
gas mileage not to mention likely
faring better in a crash.
But for those who need a great
in-city car for short errands and
commutes, today’s ForTwo might
be just the ticket. Environmentalists
are hoping Smart will release the
higher mileage diesel version of the
ForTwo, which has been available
in Europe for several years, in the
U.S. soon.
And they are keeping their fingers
crossed for a hybrid version which
could give the hugely successful
Toyota Prius—which looks almost
huge in comparison—a run for its
money in terms of fuel efficiency
and savings at the pump.
CONTACTS: Smart USA, www.; IIHS,
PoSt a to Z BuSINESS CaRD DIRECtoRy 503-244-6933
Roger Frank, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Specializing in the assessment and treatment of
low self-esteem and self-confidence
Most insurance accepted,
evening appointments available
5331 SW Macadam, Suite 363 Port., OR 97239
Tel. 503-294-1599
The Natural Alternative for Pet Foods & Supplies
7642 SW Capitol Hwy · 971-222-2686
All Natural Foods Herbal & Homeopathic Remedies
Allergy Relief
Raw Food Diets
Grooming Products
Collars Leashes Toys
10-7 M-F, 10-6 Sat, 12-5 Sun ·