Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stimulating the economy with a smart purchase

Today I did my part by stimulating the economy with a purchase of a new smart car. The rep at the Smart Center in Bedford, OH said I would love driving the car and he was so right. I didn't want to stop driving it around today. I tested it in the city and the country, taking it out to Hinckley Park and Granger township to test the curves and hills on the narrow country roads.

The automated clutch takes a little bit of getting used to. I found that the lighter I was on the throttle in first to second, the better the shift. Yet out on the highway, I managed to zip up the entrance ramp and merge into traffic with no problem. Then I was going 65 before I knew it -- whoa! I could have easily gone faster if so inclined.

I took it to a few places in Montrose, checking out its parking capabilities. One should never pull a smart car all the way in to a parking place. Other drivers will attempt to pull in, because they don't see the rear of a car sticking out as they approach. A man and a woman came up to my window in the parking lot outside of Mustard Seed. Thought it might be an electric car. Nope, not yet -- a fleet of electric smarts are being tested in London this year. Maybe two or more years til they can be had here. The couple were totally struck by the car's uniqueness, and of course, cute-factor. The woman could not stop saying, "Oh how cute!" Like it's a pet or something.

Inside the showroom, the smart cars feel large and inviting. Outside, on the lot they almost look like toys compared to the rows of Mercedes in the lot next door. (in the beginning, Mercedes co-developed the smart with Swatch (watches) Group. The design elements are the result of forward thinking (ecologically and aesthetically) in approaching automotive design. Indeed the logo, a capital "C" (Compact) linked with an arrow (Forward Thinking) provides a visual manifesto, probably the shortest one ever written! The designation of an uncapitalized "smart" as brand name is playful and at the same time encourages us to be smart about everything that we make and use in our daily lives.

A smart car is exhibited in the Metropolitan museum of art. Smart enthusiasts wrap their plastic panels in skins and spray or hand-paint designs and images over the solid color plastic panels. The panels can be recycled into new panels for the smart cars of the future.

While some people view smart cars as design objects or fashion icons, I do think some smart owners have turned their cars into pets. They give them names such as "Bluebelle", "Mustard Seed" or "Bruiser" and assign them a gender. (Check out variously named vehicles at the Smart Car of America Forums, a place where the collective wisdom of smart enthusiasts is gathered and available for all.)

Today was a perfect Ohio all-kinds-of-weather-all-day-long day. I drove it off the lot into bone-chilling temps. So I reached for the seat heater button and felt immediate warming relief. Later, winds buffeted traffic on the expressway, but the smart stayed on course easily. After spending the evening with friends, I went out to depart to find snow and slush all over everything, including my new smart. I got in and headed up a slippery hill on one of Akron's delightful old red brick-paved streets. Not a slip or slide. "Grippy," I thought.

Naturally, by the end of day one, I was calling the car "Grippy" out loud, practicing my best Stephen Colbert imitation. I tried to avoid the issue of gender. Grippy is all black on the exterior, with a hot red with black interior design. I know when the panels are switched out to red against the black tridion, the car's name will change. And once the Kinks Preservation Society bumper sticker goes on, the car will gain a gender as well. Red and black and Preservation -- Here Comes Mr Flash!

And I swore I'd never name a car! Well, I'll never fork over the money for vanity plates. Because I have to save up for a navigating system. Gotta keep stimulating that economy, you know.

Pix to come soon. What you see above is a stock photo of a black Passion with black interior.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see my official KinKs Preservation Society bumper sticker getting a new good home!
nyone wanting one of the new God Save Ray Davies stickers or buttons visit me over on the official kinks ans Ray Davies forums or on the kps internet digest. - I remain Dan the Fan, The Montvale, New Jersey Hillbilly Boy, aka Frank Lima - God save the Kinks!

Village Green said...

Thanks Frank! You da main fan, man!

My truck wore its KPS bumper sticker (courtesy of you) for many years. I've been saving the brand new one you gave me last April at the Beacon in NYC for the new smart car.

mud_rake said...

I wish you well with your Smart Car. I, too, would be overwhelmed by the size of the other beasts on the highway, especially those Dodge Durangos that look as if they want to eat your trunk.

What is the reliability of the Smart Car? They are made in France rather than Germany which raises a flag for me.

I haven't heard anything bad about them, but then i haven't heard much at all.

Keep us posted.

Village Green said...

Mud rake -- reliability is very good. The very few glitches that were discovered in the first US model in 08 were taken care of the in 09 model. In Europe, people have been driving smarts for ten years now.

Eric Mansfield said...

Saw it in the parking lot and I too thought it was an electric car. I'll have to see if it's worth investing as a commuter vehicle for work. I'm quickly logging a ton of miles on my personal car. Maybe the smart car is the way to go?

Village Green said...

Eric -- smart is at the Cleveland auto show if you want to check it out. Or go to the Bedford smart center and take one out on a test drive.