Smart ForTwo: 50 dealerships, January 2008

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If you’ve paid any attention to the automotive headlines this year, you already know the golf-cart-size Smart ForTwo is headed our way. Smart invited journalists to San Francisco this week to drive the second-generation ForTwo, which has been on sale in Europe since last spring. We tagged along and gathered some more details on its U.S. arrival. The word from Smart president Dave Schembri and chairman Roger Penske is that 74 dealerships have signed on, with around 50 set to be ready at launch. The first ’08 ForTwos hit showrooms in January.

Smart is a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, so about two-thirds of the dealerships are affiliated with the three-pointed star. Most Smart dealerships will be a “store within a store,” Schembri said, where each dealer has a walled-off Smart showroom complete with its own entrance and white, black and yellow décor.

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In addition to large markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, Schembri said Smart will also sell the ForTwo in some areas you wouldn’t normally consider — like Omaha, Neb.; Jackson, Miss.; and Louisville, Ky. Credit the brand’s website, where Smart has already taken more than 30,000 reservations for the car at $99 a pop. Consumer interest came across broader regions than Smart first considered — including Hawaii and Alaska, which will get Smart dealerships “at some point,” Schembri said.

Just how accessible will 74 dealerships make the ForTwo? Compare it to a few other boutique brands: As of last May, Mini had 81 dealerships, Hummer had 173 and Land Rover had 174, according to Automotive News. Smart is building much of its initial supply to order, with the first cars going to those who placed orders sometime last April. We don’t know if that means the first cars you’ll see at Smart dealerships will be spoken for, but if you want one, it’s probably a good idea to sign up now.

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