The long-anticipated introduction of Smart to the United States is at hand, with the Daimler-Chrysler-owned small-car maker showing off its 2008 ForTwo car at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. Although only a two-seater, the ForTwo features 12 cubic feet of cargo capacity. It's only 8 feet 10 inches long and can be parked perpendicular to the curb where other cars have to park parallel. The most powerful model uses a three cylinder engine, which pumps out 84 horsepower, not exactly astounding, but it gets more than 40mpg. Its most interesting power-train tech feature is a five-speed manual transmission with an automated clutch. With this type of transmission, you select the gear and the clutch is engaged automatically, making for quicker gear shifts than with a conventional pedal-controlled clutch.
Smart justifies the original development of the ForTwo with some interesting statistics. The average number of people riding in cars is only 1.2 people. Cars in cities are driven on average 18 miles per day, spending 90 percent of the time parked. Half of urban driving time is spent looking for a parking spot, a stat I can attest to in San Francisco. Smart has contracted with a major dealership network in the U.S. for broad distribution of the cars. Expect to see them in early 2008.