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Is U.S. ready to get Smart?

By Associated Press and Times staff
Published June 26, 2006

BERLIN — DaimlerChrysler AG plans to start selling its micro two-seater Smart car in the United States in 2007, according to published reports.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that DaimlerChrysler plans to soon announce the launch of the two-door Smart car in the United States, citing people familiar with the matter that it didn’t name.

And Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, which did not cite its sources, reported Sunday about the plans.

DaimlerChrysler spokesman Thomas Froehlich referred calls to a Smart spokesman, who was unavailable.

Chrysler Group spokesman Jason Vines said Saturday that the company does not comment on speculation about future products.

One of Tampa Bay’s first Smart Cars belongs to ReMax real estate agent Joseph Ortiz of Dunedin. The two-seater gets between 55 and 60 miles per gallon and an even greater number of double takes. He ordered his two-seater from his brother Frank Ortiz of  Foreign Affairs Auto in West Palm Beach.

The price ranges from $25,000 to $30,000. In Europe, where gas is more expensive and urban parking is tight, the Smart Car is popular. Where permitted, two Smart Cars can sit, side by side, in one traditional parking spot.  

The Fortwo model has been popular in Europe. Still, DaimlerChrysler’s Smart unit has never turned a profit, and the company said earlier this month that the unit’s sales of all models fell 21.5 percent on the year.

The model has already been launched in Canada, where the company has said initial sales have been good.

[Last modified June 26, 2006, 21:34:49]

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