Cute, Tiny Smart Cars to Come to U.S. and Get Big

The tiny, fuel-efficient, two-seater Smart cars (named after their manufacturer) that are so popular in Europe are coming to the U.S. Sort of. Convinced that a tiny car — even one that gets 60 miles per gallon and has been repeatedly proven safe for drivers — will offend Americans’ sense that bigger means better and safer, Smart U.S.A. will be introducing a Smart SUV to U.S. streets in 2006. If you think that introducing another SUV to a crowded American market would be not only financially silly, but a debasement of the whole Smart concept, well, you wouldn’t be alone. Several importers are aiming to modify the original Smart cars for approval from U.S. safety and environmental agencies and sell them to American consumers who don’t need to overcompensate for perceived sexual inadequacies by buying the biggest vehicle available. ZAP, a California company specializing in electric cars, bought the rights to sell the original Smarts in the U.S. and claims response has been overwhelming.