Smart Cars Coming: Roadster (maybe), the ForTwo+2, and Electric Drive

Smart Roadster 2

If you read this blog often, you know we like Smart cars, despite their problems and despite their critics. One car we especially like is the Smart Roadster, produced from 2003 to 2006 and never available in the U.S.

Now there is talk that it might be revived, possibly with the assistance of Renault, and if the company is smart, it will sell the Roadster, finally, in the U.S. With good performance and mileage, the car could expand Smart’s base, and the development work has already been done.

I’ve seen one of these babies in my neighborhood in Mexico, and it is stunning, like a Lotus Elise, and should cost a lot less.

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No-Haggle Pricing for Fiat?

Unless you have enough money to avoid it, haggling on the price of a car is generally an unavoidable dealership experience. The back-and-forth process can be intimidating and sucks energy from buyers as quickly as it wastes hours in the day.

If you’re good at it, and know what you’re doing, you can save a few bucks and score a price that makes you feel like you got a bargain. If you’re not a good negotiator, you run the risk of getting fleeced by a greedy dealer. Not exactly the fairest process in the world, and one I’ve long thought should be changed.

Saturn gave no-haggle pricing a go and achieved some success, but succumbed to poor product management by GM. Now it seems Fiat will give it a try, and I think it could work…

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Why the Fiat 500 Will Outsell the MINI

Fiat 500

If you want to drive a Honda Fit or a Chevy Aveo, stop reading here. People who like sporty small cars with style will be lining up in droves to buy the new Fiat 500.

Three trim levels (which Fiat calls “Versions”) are coming to dealer showrooms in March. Leftlane reports that “about 50 of Fiat’s planned 130 dealerships” will then be open, the rest coming online by year’s end.

We think the car will catch on immediately, because it offers a style no competitor can match, 30/38 mpg fuel economy with the manual transmission, and a base price of $15,500 very well equipped. According to all the reviews, it’s fun to drive and has balance, agility and handling, if not gobs of power.

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Best Car Videos of the Week: Explosions and Idiocy

BMW security training

Everyone makes mistakes.

That’s our theme for today. It’s a point proven over and over again, even by the best in the auto biz. Whether you’re a famous Italian car designer, one of the biggest auto companies in the world or just a stupid kid who got picked up by the cops, the videos below prove that no one is immune from the occasional lapse in good judgment.

Enjoy, and as always, feel free to leave links to your favorite videos in the comments section!

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Buying New Costs Less Than Buying Used?

New 2011 Mercedes C63 AMG for sale last September

New 2011 Mercedes C63 AMG for sale last September

We’ve seen a few stories recently about how, in some cases, it’s cheaper to buy a new car than a used one. This isn’t counter-intuitive, for the reason that new car loans are now at their lowest rates in nine years, averaging 4.16 percent last December.

Yet that figure doesn’t apply across the board, since it reflects mostly luxury car sales and affluent buyers, as these charts on demonstrate. And a lot of those incentives and zero-interest loans are for the expensive barges that you and I couldn’t afford new or used, Jack.

The other factor that makes it sometimes cheaper to buy new is the continually rising price of good used cars (and the higher interest charged on used-car loans). But unless you are totally captivated by the idea of owning a brand-new shiny beauty, you’ve got to figure what your cash flow is going to be over the car’s lifetime, as a recent Wall Street Journal piece made clear.

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Cars Coming Soon->Pagani Huayra Unveiled

Pagani Huayra

Pagani Huayra

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how I feel about supercars. If you’re new here, I’ll sum up for you: There are probably more supercars I’d rather take home for a night than supermodels.

Which makes what I’m about to say about the recently unveiled Pagani Huayra a bit of a shock to my system…

The Huayra (pronounced Why-Ra) has been in development for seven years and replaces the legendary Zonda. Its formal debut will happen at the Geneva Motor Show. I’ll begin with the positive, the Huayra’s impressive specs:

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Volkswagen Hybrid Formula XL1 Achieves 260 mpg!

Volkswagen XL1 concept

At almost the same moment the ridiculous Pagani HowAreYa (excuse me, it’s “Huayra”) was revealed in photos, Volkswagen thumbed its nose at 700-hp cars by showing off its amazing, 260-mpg Formula XL1 concept car.

In the works for some time, the XL1 may finally attain the vision of Dr. Ferdinand Piëch, who, ten years ago, set the goal of creating a marketable car with a fuel consumption of 1 liter per 100 kilometers (about 235 mpg).

After several previous versions, the prototype shown at the Qatar Motor Show will “go into series production” in 2013, according to Piëch, now VW chairman. It’s too soon, he said, to talk about quantities or price, but you can bet this carbon-fiber two-seater won’t come cheap. It is nonetheless a breakthrough that no present hybrid can match.

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Buying a Car? Time Is On Your Side

CarGurus Analysis of Days on Market Suggests Opportunities for Buyers

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., January 26, 2011 — A study released today by the leading online automotive community, CarGurus® (, indicates that low-mileage used cars take between one and two months to sell, which is close to double the time for older, less expensive models. For buyers, this means that for much of the used car inventory on the market, they have time to wait for the best deal.

“The notion that ‘this deal won’t last’ does not hold true in most cases, and consumers should know this as they head into a negotiation,” said Langley Steinert, Founder/CEO of CarGurus. “Older, lower-priced vehicles and Asian makes are indeed selling fast, but the bulk of the used car inventory actually sits on the market for more than a month and a half, with the strong likelihood of price drops the longer it takes to sell. So if you are looking to buy a used car, you probably have more time than you think to find a great deal.”

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Chrysler Uses Dummy to Introduce New CPO Program

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Chrysler yesterday, with the help of a virtual crash-test dummy, announced the details of its new Certified Pre-Owned vehicle program, offered at about half of Chrysler’s dealerships across the country.

While the dummy and its associated online trivia game are decent attempts at marketing, the program itself is another compelling addition to the world of CPO vehicles, a popular alternative to buying new that still provides perks such as a warranty.

Even better, the program may soon extend to the Italian side of the family, when Fiat and Alfa Romeo enter the U.S. market.

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Green Update–>Porsche Diesels, Leaf Production, Mazda2 EV

LUMMA Porsche Cayenne Diesel

A diesel Cayenne (LUMMA version above) makes sense, right? It does in Europe, where the 2010 3.0 TDI has been a success. Its engine produces 406 lb-ft of torque, which could pull you out of most mud pits—or the Neiman Marcus parking lot.

So why not bring diesel power to the U.S. Cayenne—and the Panamera, too? Porsche is discussing the option, with the same V6 diesel for both cars, and may show them in Geneva in March. The Panamera S Hybrid may well come here also, using the present Cayenne S Hybrid drivetrain.

These moves are all part of Porsche’s plan to double its sales by 2018. Look for an entry-level sports car built on the Boxster platform and the Cajun (a junior Cayenne), to come perhaps in 2013.

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