European automakers target the U.S. with itsy-bitsy cars

European automakers hope to make inroads in U.S. markets with small, fuel-efficient cars, but they have quite a task ahead of them, despite gas prices that now exceed $2 per gallon. While a segment of the U.S. market is gaga for hybrids like the Toyota Prius, which gets about 44 miles per gallon, some small European cars like the Smart two-seater get nearly 70 mpg. Three problems: One, many U.S. drivers feel insecure in small cars, competing on freeways with gargantuan idiotmobiles like the Cadillac Escalade. Two, small cars have lower horsepower, and U.S. drivers rank high horsepower above fuel efficiency on their list of desired features. And three, Euro mini-cars are diesel-fueled, and U.S. drivers still view diesel as noisy, smelly, and highly polluting, despite recent technological advances that address those problems. Good luck, Fiat!

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