Being a site widely considered ahead of the curve on both the tech and eco-friendly front has it benefits. One of those perks manifested itself towards the end of last week when we were invited to an exclusive pow-wow with smart USA President Dave Schembri, which included our own smart fortwo test drive. Before hitting the road, however, Mr. Schembri was kind enough to share some interesting tidbits about the company and give an overall update on the state of burgeoning branch of the Daimler automotive family via a question and answer session.
Schembri touted that while other cars cater to a certain demographic, the smart fortwo’s appeals across all groups due to the fact that it had the unique characteristic of being a vehicle that expressed its difference by design and that design would never define an owner’s stage in life. It has equal appeal to Baby Boomers, entry level drivers, empty nesters, and urban dwellers thanks in part to it’s high safety ratings, accent on environmental friendliness, fuel economy and ability to alleviate urban congestion. The Smartfortwo also has built a tremendous Internet presence as 85% of those interested in learning more about the vehicle had used the web to receive that info. In addition to dispensing of information via the web, smart USA also offers the owners of the more than 30,000 models on the American road oppportunity to interact via it’s owner social network and for those with safety concerns over taking a ride in such a small vehicle, the company started another site allowing smart fortwo drivers to share their true tales of collision with the world.
On the “did you know?” front, Schembri shed some light on the fact that the company was originally intended as a partnership between Swatch and Mercedes and in fact, “smart” is an acronym of sorts, standing for Swatch and Mercedes Art. This accounts for the smartfortwo’s swappable panels, which harkens back to tranferable bands on the watch brand (very fun). The company could be showing off some collaborative work with artist designed panels in the near future. Also in the works for smart USA is a car2go, a by-the-minute car sharing pilot program currently being tested in Austin, ala Zip Car.
So…now the test drive. Getting behind the wheel in 4pm traffic on a rainy day in NYC isn’t necessarily going to give someone a good feel for how this car handles. While the braking was a little bumpy, I will say that having previously driven a larger car, once you realize your car is a third of the size of a regular car you get the feel for how it cuts down on urban congestion. Being stuck in the middle of an intersection is a common occurrence, but this tiny vehicle offered me the ability to squirt through small openings and avoid sitting underneath a stoplight for ten minutes. That being said, I’m still not a fan of city driving…but if I needed to be, I just might invest in a smart Fortwo.