Smart Car Interview with President Dave Schembri... You Asked, We Listened, Dave Answers!

Smart Car USA Photo

Photo Credit: SmartUSA

When we had the opportunity to speak with Smart Car USA President, Dave Schembri, we turned to you, our fellow Treehuggers, to see what sorts of questions you had to ask Dave about their past, current, and future models. Well, we had quite a nice turn out of inquisitive thinkers. So without further adieu...

You asked him, we listened, so now let's turn the mic over to Dave for some answers!

Dave Schembri Photo

Photo Credit: Smart USABackground Information on the Smart
Preparations for the Smart ForTwo began in the early 1990's with a Joint Venture between Mercedes-Benz and Swatch, the makers of Swatch watches known for their wide array of colorful designs. Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of the Swatch watch brought his ideas for an "ultra-urban" car to Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz ended up taking on this engineering challenge with the outcome of designing one of the most innovative cars ever introduced. Full development of the Smart concept started back in 1994 and the Smart ForTwo finally debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in 1997. The response of the first model was fantastic, garnering more print space and TV coverage than any other car at the show.

Today, Smart remains a vital member of Mercedes-Benz, a Daimler AG Company. Smart USA, a division of Penske Automotive Group is the exclusive distributor for Smart in the United States (headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) and Puerto Rico.

Smart USA Winter Snow Photo

Photo credit: Glen Bowman

Treehugger: I think the Smart Fortwo is an excellent choice for a car. I do not see any of the Big 3 coming up with a car that can compare. My question is how does the Smart Fortwo do in harsh weather, such as below zero with tons of snow?

Dave Schembri: The Smart Fortwo performs very well in the snow. I drive my Smart Fortwo, year round, in Michigan. I know from experience the car handles well. The engine is mounted between the rear tires which provides added traction and stability in the snow. The Smart Fortwo also comes standard with all-season tires that perform well in any season.

TH: I understand the car was redesigned to meet U.S. Emissions requirements, which resulted in lower fuel economy. My question is, in your opinion do you think it is better to tolerate a higher pollution for 60+ mpg (provided the U.S. laws were to change), or to keep the current design of around 40 mpg with cleaner exhaust?

DS: The Smart Fortwo gas powered engine is the right balance between economy and performance. The Smart Fortwo customer expects not only great mileage but also sporty performance.

TH: Mid-30's highway mileage is very disappointing to some consumers considering the platform. Can we expect to see a smart car that gets 60+ mpg highway in the near future?

DS: The Smart Fortwo was ranked as the highest miles per gallon vehicle, outside of the hybrid vehicles, for the past two years at a rating of 41 mpg highway. The Smart Fortwo already exceeds the 2010 government requirement of 36 mpg fleet average.

smart fortwo electric drive photo

Photo Credit: Smart USA
TH: Will smart ever produce an electric (or hybrid) version of their car?

DS: Daimler is currently testing a fleet of electric drive smart Fortwos in London, England and Berlin, Germany. A limited quantity will be available in select U.S. markets beginning the second half of 2010. Production of the vehicle will be in 2012.

TH: Will you be bringing a diesel to the U.S. anytime soon? Why have you not done what's necessary to meet T2B5 and the diesel here to the USA?

DS: At this time there are no plans to bring the Smart Fortwo diesel to the United States. We see the future of the Smart Fortwo being the electric drive.

TH: Given the criticism of the Smart's semi-manual transmission, what's in the works to improve the unit? Will smart ever offer a manual transmission?

DS: I have to say it depends on who you ask regarding the transmission. Many of our customers like the functionality of being able to drive their Smart Fortwo in manual or automatic mode. Once owners drive the vehicle for a while they quickly discover ways to maximize the shifting and experience. There is no plan at this time to alter the vehicles transmission.

Continue with the Treehugger/Dave Schembri interview page 2.

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