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Sunday, April 21, 2024


Smart Car Battles High Gas Prices


By Jack Fichter

ERMA — Mike Walter may be one of the smartest guys in the county.
Eighteen months ago, he decided it was time to replace his pickup truck that delivered 14 miles per gallon (mpg) with a Smart Car that gets 40 mpg. Back then, gas was closer to $3 per gallon than the current $4.
He said he estimates the Smart Car will save him between $5,500 and $6,000 per year in fuel costs which pays to finance the car, for insurance with some extra money left over.
Walter is turning heads as he drives his Smart Car around Lower Township and Cape May for his construction business. A police officer pulled him over not to issue a ticket but to have a look at the car.
Some who see a Smart Car for the first time believe it looks like half a car. It does not have a back seat.
Walter has owned the car for a month. He said he saw his first Smart Car in Italy six years ago.
Smart Cars must be ordered on line and the waiting list varies from four to 12 months. The closest dealer to Cape May County is in Cherry Hill.
Walters was fortunate to get his Smart Car in two months when someone else cancelled their order.
While some may view the car as dangerous because of its small size, it has turned in amazingly good crash test results. Walter said it has a roll cage like a racecar and four airbags.
The Smart Car’s three-cylinder gasoline engine is in the rear of the car. It is not a hybrid and a diesel version is available in Canada, but not in the U.S.
The Smart Car comes in three models, the Pure with a base price of $13,500, the Passion at $18,000 (which Walter bought) and a convertible model.
Walter’s Smart Car has heated seats, a sunroof and air conditioning.
The Smart Car features a slip clutch, which allows it to be shifted manually or driven as an automatic transmission.
“It’s just fun to drive, it’s a blast,” said Walter.
He said the Smart Car easily goes 65 mph on the parkway.
“When people stop me to talk about the car, I’ll tell them about my business as well,” said Walter.
Despite his six-foot tall frame, Walter said he is comfortable driving the car.
The “S” in Smart Car stands for Swiss Watch — the company that formerly manufactured the car — and the “M” stands for Mercedes, the current manufacturer, he said. The vehicle name means the Swiss and Mercedes created “art” or “SMart.”
For $1,200, you can even change the color of your Smart Car by slipping in new panels, said Walter.
He said he could wash the tiny car in 10 minutes.
“This is the future,” said Walter. “Gas isn’t going to get any cheaper.”
While others are afraid to glance at their gas gauge, Walter doesn’t worry these days.

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