Not so SMART (DaimlerChrysler product strategy)

DaimlerBenz is now transferring one of its big mistakes to the US. The company has made a car called the SMART, which has never sold enough to make money. The American and German media are all talking about how the corporation is finally going to “make it profitable” by selling it in the United States, but anyone who has seen one of those cars knows that almost no Americans will buy it. The president of the company, Dieter Zetsche (whose wife barely escaped prison in Michigan and caused a law to be changed), has lived in the US, and he should know that Americans won’t buy a car like that, but he’s continuing with the plan anyway.

The biggest problem with the car is that in this country its small size makes it a deathmobile. The second thing is that you can’t carry anything in it – not even your children.

One automotive writer observed that the car was designed to be parked anywhere. The problem, he says, is that people don’t buy cars to park them; they buy them to carry people and stuff around. He says a VW Polo does a better job for the same money. Here is the article: … 7/056.html

This week on the radio a commentator was talking about the foolishness of trying to sell the SMART in the US. He said, “The Germans think that when Americans complain about the price of gasoline, it means they want smaller cars. It really just means they want cheaper gasoline.”

Hi Jamie

This plan is also incomprehensible to me. Attempting to rescue the “forTwo” smart by launching it in the US seems like the equivalent of corporate suicide.

Marketing for the smart has relied heavily on the ability to park it in tight parking situations. In a city with parallel parking, the smart can theoretically be backed in to fit in between two “regular” cars. But that would probably mainly be a plus in big cities in the US. If a city uses parking meters, however, I can easily imagine a large number of parking tickets being issued to “smart parkers”. :lol:

A smart might be logical as a second car which would be used exclusively for a daily commute to work. But even then, the two-passenger capacity and and the lack of room to transport much more than a briefcase certainly won’t help sales. There are other equally fuel-efficient cars that are much more versatile (and I assume also cheaper).

If you’re interested, here’s a link to a smart crash test video:
It seems the smart holds up pretty well in a high speed crash. Unfortunately, most people wouldn’t survive such a crash anyway — no matter what car they happened to be in.

I’m curious about the law that was changed. What was it and how was it changed? (I’m already aware that the issue was underage drinking.)


I think the Smart would be a disastrous choice for driving in an American city. It’s a complete suicide-mobile.

I particularly noticed that in the initial crash they showed, the Smart is said to hold up well, but it’s very obvious from the video footage that the driver would have lost his legs.

People commonly survive crashes like that one in Volvos, Cadillacs and other larger cars, if all the safety equipment works properly. The cars in that video were just too small for that, or for US driving, especially on a city freeway. (A friend visiting from Switzerland expressed fear of Detroit freeways once, and one from the Czech Republic began crying on the way home from the airport. They’d probably have had a heart attack in NY or LA.)

There was a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who survived scores of high-speed crashes. It’s thanks to his research that most of the automotive safety features we have now exist. And he even discovered things you wouldn’t imagine, such as that many people who would otherwise have survived a crash were killed by the radio knobs! Anyway, sometimes crash test dummies and corpses don’t give you all the data you need, so he would get into the cars himself and have his assistants crash them. (He would not let his assistants get in.)

Here is an article about the reason she was arrested: … 282148.htm

People in Europe think we’re unnecessarily strict here, with our high drinking age, but kids here get their driver’s licenses at 16, and there is practically no mass transit here. Michigan had the same experience other states did, when the drinking age was lowered to 18 for a while, which was a massive increase in the number of severe traffic accidents. That’s why it’s back at 21.

In the case of Mrs. Zetsche, the maximum penalty for the crime she was charged with was $500, which is peanuts to someone with millions. The judge wanted to send her to jail, but the law did not allow for that, and the judge was very frustrated. Finally the township amended the law to allow 90 days in jail. But Mrs. Zetsche was allowed to waltz off to Germany with almost no penalty for endangering the lives of kids. Here is an article about that: … 358067.htm

Hi Amy and Jamie, thank for discussing the SMART question here as it is connected to a number of corporate and cross-cultural issues.

I personally have seen the SMART car primarily as a mobile advertising medium rather than a means of transportation. As Amy pointed out, there are some cities in Europe where the SMART might be used for inner-city trips but why would anyone try to sell this tiny car in the US where space is not an issue? Also, there is a tendency in Europe and, I’m sure, in other parts of the world, to buy larger cars, so-called ‘multi purpose vehicles’ (MPV).

If used properly those cars can save more fuel than smaller ones and of course they are far safer than the SMART. I would venture to say that the vast majority of all SMART’s are used by companies for advertising purposes and I can’t see how Daimler might be able to change this…[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening lectures: A university lecture on the history of the English language[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten, you?re certainly right referring to the advertising value of this car. A friend of mine, who works at an investment company, told me that she were requested by her company to fetch one of ten new SMARTs from the manufactory, of course painted in the company?s colours and with advertising advice. But also, there are fans of that car here. I myself know one guy, who is a large (about 1.90meters) fan of the SMART as he appreciates the technologie this car includes and also the possibilities of design what this car offers.

Smart have done a lot. Beside of the “Limousine” you also can get a “Sport Coupe”. So that there are various possibilties the customers can decide between.

Every day when I drive to work with my car I can see 3-4 Smarts without any advertising advice and in very different colours and forms. Of course, it seems to be dangerous sitting in the damage-zone of such a car but like I?ve read here there are other cars in which you are dead too, if you?ll have a damage. What do you think about a “Mini Cooper” ,for examle, or a Renault “Clio”? Do you think they were more save?

And although, as you certainly have to expect an accident when you drive a car you not nesseccary must have one. So, such cars are for Optimists and I think there are lots of people who are sure that they never will have a heavy accident and these people possibliy will be the right clients for a SMART.


Michael, your friend was asked to fetch the Smart from the factory, and it had advertising or advertisements on it. What are you thinking in German when you say advertising advice? Maybe I can figure out what you can say. This expression doesn’t make sense in English.

I can tell you that as soon as those Smarts roll out of the ship, they’re going to be a big joke in the US. People are still joking about the Yugo (in Europe it was called the Zastava), which was a Yugoslav car built on an old Fiat or Renault design. It was so small that in my state the wind picked one up and threw it off a big suspension bridge. The driver died in Lake Huron, but at least she was saving energy when she drowned.

Hi Jamie

My crystal ball is telling me that Michael was thinking of the word German word Hinweis. So, Smart cars that advertise by having company information and/or logo on them.

There are lots of Smarts in my area, mostly without any kind of advertising on them. But, then again, I live in “Daimler-land”. :lol:


What stupid [color=red]mistakes will often happen to me yet.
But I think it was less a question but a request so my first thought was, that there was a bit pressure to fetch the car. Let me explain, the company she works for considers itselves as a big family (at least they tell that their employees) and everything the employees do for that company (outer their normally and paid for activities) they have to do at their own. Not eventhe time and the place of their holidays they are free to decide for. Though I must admit that she had been enthusiastic.

Jamie, thanks for good advice. Amy was right consulting the oracle and her crystal ball is capable reading my thoughts. :wink:

I think the YUGO is an replica of the FIAT Bambino or formerly FIAT 500 what not only was the amount of the swept volume but also its weight. Despite that this car does have fans yet and that are not the most pessimistic people. :lol:
You?re right, the Smart is a car what needed much time to get some acceptance in Germany too but now you can see it everywhere here. Might be that many American people develop such a humor like the fans of the Fiat Bambino. Perhaps you can tell us more about the gag of importing the Smart to the U.S. in the next future. And if it weren?t successful in the American traffic you possibly could prison Mrs. Zetsche in one, after she will have broken the law again. :wink:


P.S. Sorry for kidding again, that?s my way :oops: