A Northern California company says it has received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency to sell two-seat Smart cars in the United States. It was the last major regulatory hurdle the company faced.
Zap, an electric vehicle maker in Santa Rosa, Calif., has a goal of selling 15,000 Smart cars a year in the United States. It hopes to have 150 dealers signed up by mid 2005.
The company expects the Smart car to sell for between $15,000 and $25,000 in the United States, substantially more than the approximate $10,000 base price in Europe.
Zap does not have a deal to buy the Smart cars directly from parent company DaimlerChrysler AG. The company instead has a partnership with Thomas Heidemann, a German who moved to the United States four years ago. Heidemann set up Smart Automobiles LLC in Santa Ana, Calif., with the aim of importing Smart cars.
Heidemann gets the cars from dealers in Europe and imports them to the United States, where they will be modified to meet U.S. crash and emissions standards. The Smart cars are powered by a turbocharged, three-cylinder engine. Zap says the car will get up to 60 miles per gallon.
The two-seater Zap plans to sell is sold in Europe, Canada and other nations as the ForTwo.
But competition is coming. DaimlerChrysler plans to begin importing a larger model, the four-seat Smart ForMore, from Brazil to the U.S. market in 2006. The ForMore, expected to compete against small SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4, will be shown at the Detroit auto show in January
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