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The Smart car gets EPA clearance
California company plans to sell the tiny, fuel efficient European two-seaters in the United States.
December 1, 2004: 4:19 PM EST
By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - U.S. residents that want to drive the tiny European Smart ForTwo may finally get their chance.

The Environmental Protection agency recently granted a "certificate of conformity" for the French microcar, clearing the way for a California company, Zap Cars, to begin selling them in the United States.

The ForTwo is built by the Smart division of DaimlerChrysler. The two-seater, which has been sold in Europe since 1998, has not previously been available in the United States.

Smart plans to sell a small SUV in the United States based on its four-seat ForFour, to be called the ForMore, but it has not officially announced plans to sell the current Smart ForTwo.

CNN/Money tested a diesel-powered Smart ForTwo earlier this year. Click here for the story.

Zap, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., hopes to sell about 15,000 modified Smart ForTwos in the United States per year. The cars get about 60 miles to the gallon, according to Smart.

Zap's ForTwos will be powered by turbocharged 3-cylinder engines producing 60 horsepower and will come equipped with automatic transmissions and electronic stability control, according to the company.

At a little over eight feet long and less than five feet wide, the ForTwo is designed to be small enough to fit two side-by-side in a typical parking space. In spite of its small size, Smart has said, the ForTwo is safe because of it's sturdy body-encompassing frame.

Zap's ForTwos will be retrofitted to meet U.S. Department of Transportation requirements for bumper strength and side-impact protection, Alex Campbell, a Zap spokesperson told CNN/Money in an interview earlier this year.

The company will concentrate on "luxury" versions of the cars with cabriolet tops and leather interiors, Campbell said. Prices will range from the mid-teens to as much as $23,000.

"The demand is far, far exceeding the supply," said Steve Schneider, Zap's chief executive officer.

The company has been approached by several rental car agencies and a large retailing chain interested in buying at least a full year's allotment of cars, Schneider said.

While DaimlerChrysler is not involved with Zap and said earlier this year that it will not be able to provide any dealer support for the ForTwo in the United States, Zap has said that its dealers will be trained to service the cars.  Top of page

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