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Smart Car catches eye, then envious looks on The Murfreesboro Post

By MICHELLE WILLARD , Post Staff Writer
Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2008 10:02 am



TMP photo by Kelly Hite


At first glance, Kim Johnson’s new car looks odd, like it’s not really a car at all, more like a golf cart.

But it is the Mercedes Benz-created Smart Car, the first in Murfreesboro.

Johnson bought her new Smart Car Fortwo Passion, Clara Belle, in Tampa, Fla., last month while on a trip to visit her parents.

“When I looked at it I thought, ‘I don’t want to drive this,’” she said. Johnson’s initial reaction to the odd-looking car isn’t that surprising.

Honestly, it looks like a glorified golf cart, or if you took a normal compact car, cut it in half and only kept the front end.

But she said she had so much fun on the test drive, she had to buy it even though she already had a Jeep Liberty sitting in her garage.

Johnson is not alone in her love for the Smart Car. The car has been a best seller in European markets. Since its 1998 release, more than 770,000 cars have been sold in 36 countries.

“I sat there watching these people walk in (to the dealership) saying, ‘I want this car, and I want it now,’” she recalled.

But most people have to wait a year and a half before getting a Smart Car. Since its release in early 2008, the only way to get one is to pre-order from a dealer or online, which has driven up demand.

Johnson happened into her car without the long wait, because Clara Belle was an orphan.

While she was in Tampa, her parents took her to the dealership when they bought their Smart Car. There happened to be two on the lot that weren’t picked up by the people who reserved them or orphaned, she said.

“This one was just sitting there and I said I wanted it,” she said, but she had to wait three days while the dealer contacted the couple that ordered Clara Belle.

After buying Clara Belle, Johnson drove the car back from Florida, averaging 50 miles per gallon. The EPA rates the 2008 model at 33 city/41 highway mpg.

The high fuel efficiency is achieved by the car’s extraordinarily compact design and three-cylinder, one-liter gasoline engine.

According to Smart Car, the Fortwo has a top speed of 90 miles per hour, and Johnson admitted she topped out at 80 mph on her drive from Florida.

The Smart Car’s fuel efficiency isn’t the only thing that drew Johnson into the driver’s seat. The company’s environmental record and eco-friendly practices got her engines revving.

From the beginning of production at the car plant, Smartville, in Hambach, France, the company tries to minimize its environmental impact.

“With our products, we are setting a milestone for environmentally-compatible individual mobility. Every day, we live an efficient and dynamic environmental management system that is aligned towards on-going improvement,” according to the company’s environmental policy.

The policy is words the company lives by, not just a marketing ploy.

Smartville has its own natural gas-powered energy station that heats water and produces electricity. The plant even recycles heat generated from molding parts to heat paint booths.

Heat isn’t the only thing recycled at the plant – all the waste that can be recycled is. And the company reduces the amount of waste that would have to be recycled by utilizing reusable shipping containers and redesigning parts to eliminate waste.

Rather than paint, the car is powder coated, which uses 40 percent less energy with zero solvent emissions and no water waste. Even the powder-coat overspray is 98 percent recycled, according to the company.

But the company didn’t stop there. The car itself is 80 percent recyclable. Every component from the wheels to the dashboard is 100-percent recyclable. The engine is also made from aluminum.

“Even our exterior door panels can be easily changed and recycled,” Smartusa.com said.

These environmental policies impress Johnson, even more than the 4-star safety rating of the odd-looking car.

But it’s definitely the car’s look that turns heads.

“It’s funny the looks that you get,” she said.

On her drive back to Rockvale from Florida, a crowd of people surrounded the car at a gas station and began asking her questions. The teller at her bank even came outside to ask about the car.

And one woman at Wal-Mart asked her if it ran on air.

“I smiled and said, ‘No. No, it doesn’t,’” Johnson said.

Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or [email protected].
 

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great story but, we gotta keep this to ourselves!!

thanks for sharing this article with us. However, since I'm still waiting on mine, this can only hurt my chances for getting delivery any time soon... Just think how many more people will reserve after reading this in the news paper.
 

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Typical reporters, never research the facts. I liked the story, but this was by no means the first in Murfreesboro and here is what I sent the reporter:


Just a point of fact: I live in the Christiana area. I picked up my smart on January 26 of this year at the only dealer in TN and it was the first one of the new 451 series registered in Tennessee. Now true, mine is not the first one technically in Murfreesboro, nor is hers, but I have been driving it in the ’Boro since January on weekends. Also true, I am not nearly as attractive as Miss. Kim, my being a 63 year old male. And I was also not an impulse buyer like she was since I ordered mine on March 19, 2007 by the on-line $99 deposit method. I did like the facts that you added to the story and I hope it stops so many of the questions I get every time I come to Murfreesboro on weekends to grocery shop at Wal-Mart or dine out, but I doubt it. I have answered more questions, had more photos taken and been pointed at more times than all of the 75 cars I have owned since I was 16 – and that includes customs, Corvette’s and Porsche 911”s

Also the gas mileage sounds great at 50 mpg, but if she did that she has a very unusual one, the EPA tests, Edmunds Tests and most of us that frequent the “Smart Car Of America” site seldom see 50 mpg, especially during the first 2000 miles until break-in. I have been getting mid-40’s and that is great considering I have to drive a diesel powered Excursion at 17.8 mpg to work in Nashville. In the spring and fall without AC and diving say Hwy 231 I might be in the 50’s but interstate driving will not do it – and I have an added fuel flow meter to back that up.

No retraction needed – just wanted you to know the facts and why I seldom believe what I read in the papers since a simple check of DMV records would have blown holes in your story.
 

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Actually, if this is true, it is quite disturbing. This would indicate that the dealer sold an orphan without using the orphan list. That's not exactly ethical, now is it? I'm hoping to get a call several months from now as I am moved up the list. Otherwise, I have a year or more to wait. I would hate to hear that my dealer sold a car to someone walking in off the street and ignored the list of people that have asked to be placed on the orphan list. :rolleyes:
 

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Russ, I thought the 50 mpg sounded a little high also, especially as an "average."

Maxwell, unfortunately, stories of dealers selling orphans to walk-ins are not uncommon. It seems these orphan lists mean more to some dealers than to others. :)
 

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Jeez, get a grip. We get scathingly bad press, we complain. We get good press, we complain. Can't have it both ways. As far as orphan sales go, if someone backs out, it's the dealer's car, and they can crush it if they choose. This whole "orphan list" thing seems to have been concocted here. I clearly understand the implications of that statement, but the dealer only exists to make money. They aren't a public service.
 

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Accurate press, sounds like something George Carlin would have had a field day with for at least an hour!!! :) Fine article Angel, Ms. Hite must be having fun in her new smart!!
 

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Actually, if this is true, it is quite disturbing. This would indicate that the dealer sold an orphan without using the orphan list. That's not exactly ethical, now is it? I'm hoping to get a call several months from now as I am moved up the list. Otherwise, I have a year or more to wait. I would hate to hear that my dealer sold a car to someone walking in off the street and ignored the list of people that have asked to be placed on the orphan list. :rolleyes:
Not all dealers are doing orphan lists. I know mine isn't. They had too many people wanting to get on the list and since they were already so backed up being one of the last ones to open they nixed the list. They are still selling orphans and if you have a smart on reserve you get priority over Joe Public that just walked in that day. They say if you want to get an orphan there you have to call them which is fine with me. I have there number on speed dial and they said I could call them every day if I wanted. They are also nice and let me have heads up of when they're getting their next shipment in. :bigthumbup: Now there are no guarantees that someone will orphan one from the shipment, but it never hurts to call and ask. :multi:
 

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Article

Typical reporters, never research the facts. I liked the story, but this was by no means the first in Murfreesboro and here is what I sent the reporter:


Just a point of fact: I live in the Christiana area. I picked up my smart on January 26 of this year at the only dealer in TN and it was the first one of the new 451 series registered in Tennessee. Now true, mine is not the first one technically in Murfreesboro, nor is hers, but I have been driving it in the ’Boro since January on weekends. Also true, I am not nearly as attractive as Miss. Kim, my being a 63 year old male. And I was also not an impulse buyer like she was since I ordered mine on March 19, 2007 by the on-line $99 deposit method. I did like the facts that you added to the story and I hope it stops so many of the questions I get every time I come to Murfreesboro on weekends to grocery shop at Wal-Mart or dine out, but I doubt it. I have answered more questions, had more photos taken and been pointed at more times than all of the 75 cars I have owned since I was 16 – and that includes customs, Corvette’s and Porsche 911”s

Also the gas mileage sounds great at 50 mpg, but if she did that she has a very unusual one, the EPA tests, Edmunds Tests and most of us that frequent the “Smart Car Of America” site seldom see 50 mpg, especially during the first 2000 miles until break-in. I have been getting mid-40’s and that is great considering I have to drive a diesel powered Excursion at 17.8 mpg to work in Nashville. In the spring and fall without AC and diving say Hwy 231 I might be in the 50’s but interstate driving will not do it – and I have an added fuel flow meter to back that up.

No retraction needed – just wanted you to know the facts and why I seldom believe what I read in the papers since a simple check of DMV records would have blown holes in your story.
Not to be rude; but your note reads to me like your a 63 year old man p***ed that someone else got in to a newspaper and you didn't....

I've read it several times over and it truly is the sort of rant I'd expect from my son if his friend had a toy he didn't have.....sorry in advance
 

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One thing about living 63 years is that I've learned that sometimes to make a point to an unexperienced rookie is that there are times you have to "get in their face" to make them understand that their brief time on this planet hasn't taught them how to really do quality work. I say this after managing and running production and engineering teams in excess of 300 employees, many of who also went off half-cocked rather than doing their homework.

This was a copy of the letter to the greenhorn "reporter" that appears to have a friend that bought a smart. I liked the context of the article, I just wish they would have checked their stories because mine is just one of three other smarts in Murfreesboro that were here before this one. And no I don't need to be in this local rag as I have been published and written about many, many times in much more prestigious publications.
 
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