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].