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MikeT

ZAP saga continues....

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from today's Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

pressdemocrat.com

Article published - Jun 1, 2005

Zap's Smart car deal hits bump

Disagreement with German manufacturing partner further stalls delivery to dealers

By MARY FRICKER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A disagreement between Zap of Santa Rosa and the Smart division of DaimlerChrysler in Germany has further delayed delivery of the tiny Smart car, which Zap has been promising customers for more than a year.

The DaimlerChrysler division said Tuesday it has not received the purchase order for $1 billion worth of mini-cars that Zap said it sent two weeks ago.

"I have to believe it's just an error," said Zap chief executive Steve Schneider. Schneider said Zap's directors will discuss their next move at a meeting in Santa Rosa on Thursday.

Zap placed the order because it was flooded with requests from dealers for more than 77,000 of the tiny two-seaters following its announcement in November that it has federal approval to sell the European car in 45-states, Schneider said.

Zap claims it owns the only technology approved to convert the Smart car to U.S. safety and environmental standards.

Under its federal allotment, Zap can only produce 15,000 cars a year, so it is looking for manufacturing partners who can help it meet demand, Schneider said. He hopes Smart GmbH, the DaimlerChrysler division in Stuttgart, can make up the difference.

But a company spokesman Tuesday said Stuttgart does not typically do business with independent contractors.

The dispute between the European giant and the struggling local car and scooter dealer is the latest swerve in the unpredictable saga of Zap's efforts to reinvent itself as a Smart and electric-car dealer. Zap currently makes most of its money selling used cars in Fulton.

Zap first announced its intention to sell the ForTwo Coupe model of the Smart car in May 2004. At that time, Zap claimed the cars were "available to Zap dealers in select states." But the cars have to be converted to U.S. standards, and final federal approval wasn't received until November.

The cars still are not approved for sale in California and four other states.

Since November, Zap claims to have received more than $1 billion in orders from prospective dealers. Schneider said 97 cars are being converted for Zap by G&K Automotive Conversions in Santa Ana. But he is holding up their sale until the disagreement with Smart GmbH can be resolved.

He said he met with Smart's president earlier this year in Stuttgart and felt "pretty darn happy about the relationship and where it was going."

Schneider offered to give the conversion technology to Smart, and supply dealers and service departments that met Smart car standards, if Smart would produce the cars and parts. But this week's rejection throws the relationship in doubt.

If no agreement can be reached, Schneider said he is in talks with other manufacturers to produce the cars.

Zap first announced its $1 billion purchase order May 24. DaimlerChrysler issued its first denial within hours. That day investors traded 1,743,900 shares of Zap, whose average daily volume in recent months has been about 200,000 shares, according to Commodity Systems. Zap closed May 24 at $1.95, down 57 cents.

Meanwhile, some dealers are getting anxious.

To prove Zap's Smart cars meet federal standards, Zap arranged for one car to be sold through Reno dealer Bob Chauvin two weeks ago.

"We did a media event with the sale of this car, and the next day I got the names of 10 people who want to pay cash for one right now," Chauvin said Tuesday. "I've had a lot of good publicity, but I can't get any more cars."

Chauvin, a Reno used car dealer for 23 years, is the owner of Ragin' Cajun Used Cars. He believes in Zap's plans to market low-pollution vehicles nationwide.

He said he paid Zap $150,000 for the rights to sell Zap vehicles in Reno, Sparks and Carson City. He also bought 150,000 shares of Zap stock when it was selling for $3.25 a share, he said. It closed Tuesday at $1.69, down 25 cents.

"I felt I was on the ground floor. It's been somewhat of a nightmare to get the investment and not get the product. I'm anxious to get some products," he said.

Chauvin sold a lime green Zap Smart car to Las Vegas attorney Phil Aurbach, who said he and his wife fell in love with the Smart car during their honeymoon in Europe four years ago and located Zap over the Internet.

Chauvin said he bought the car for $20,000 from Zap and sold it to Aurbach for $25,000.

"We were smitten by them," Aur-bach said Tuesday. "My wife looks so cool behind the wheel in this half-a-car."

He said he realizes parts and service could be an issue.

"They haven't quite got that figured out," he said. He is hoping Chauvin will supply the basics, such as air and oil filters.

(thanks to Chuck in the USA for forwarding this)

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$150,000 US for a worthless "franchise".

$240,000 US lost on ZAP stock purchase.

Sold the one car, as a publicity stunt, to a customer who doesn't even know where he will get an oil filter.

No wonder the Cajun is Ragin'

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WOW... that's unfortunate. On the other hand, perhaps smart will get their cars into the USA faster now?

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I really don't think MB, DC or smart give a rat's ass about ZAP's dream of bringing in used smarts to recycle as new ZAPs.

They will move on their own timetable if and when the new smart world car comes to America.

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It`s pure business... MB let`s Zap create the awareness and demand for the car... and in 2 years they cut the grass under Zap! feet with the release of a Fortwo that can be used in all the states and that is supported by MB dealers.

The more noise Zap! makes the better it is for MB.

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Thats a good point Acier.. I never thought of that. Oh well... I just hope that if all this business about importing goes down the tubes, that it does not in any way tarnish the image of the car itself.

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... that it does not in any way tarnish the image of the car itself.

That is what worries me the most about Zap! trying to sell use fortwo in the US.

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Zap's Smart car deal hits bump

If no agreement can be reached, Schneider said he is in talks with other manufacturers to produce the cars.

So, like, what does that mean? Is there someone in China willing to make fake smarts? I mean, I know watches have been faked forever, but get real...

One source I have spoken with more or less confirms that 2007 will see a legitimate smart fortwo in the US through official channels.

So, let's work the last of this Seattle thing out and promote our June 18 event already.

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It sounds like a shady business to me. I mean come-on, first they plan on buying all these used smarts and converting them. Now they say they want to buy new smarts from smart. Which is it? I think someone would notice a 1 million dollar order for smart cars, that stuff just doesn't sit on the edge of someones desk and forgets about it. Either there is some stock promotion hype trying to happen here with ZAP or someone is not being honest here...

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DaimlerChrysler's smart Microcar Brand Cleared for U.S. Sales

Eight States to get smart fortwo Coupe and Convertible Models

What's the smallest car sold in the U.S.? If the first car to pop in your head was the MINI Cooper you'll need to guess again, because now that Zero Air Pollution (ZAP) has won approval to sell

DaimlerChrysler's smart fortwo coupe and convertible models in eight states, the MINI is no longer the most diminutive subcompact.

ZAP, a California company, which initially made its mark by purveying innovative electric vehicles, will begin selling 2005 model year smart cars immediately. Its petition for import eligibility has now been granted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the first deliveries of smart cars, customized to American standards, to dealers will be underway.

The smart fortwo has been sold in Canada, through Mercedes-Benz dealers, for almost a year now, and take-up has been brisk. The tiny car delivers extremely frugal fuel economy yet surprisingly zippy performance, in a package that often brings smiles to onlookers. Unlike the sale of smart cars in the U.S., DaimlerChrysler is overseeing all aspects of the smart brand in Canada.

DaimlerChrysler chose not to introduce its smart fortwo model into the U.S. when it launched it in Canada, citing Canadian's preference for smaller vehicles behind its reasoning for doing so. DaimlerChrysler initially planned on offering smart to its U.S. customers, but after canceling its compact SUV such plans were put on hold. The nameplate also canceled its roadster model earlier this year, but the four-seat forfour model, co-produced with Mitsubishi in the Netherlands, is still available in Europe and other global markets.

It is not known whether the forfour or additional models that smart will add to its lineup in future years will ever become available to U.S. customers through Mercedes-Benz dealers, but if ZAP is successful with the fortwo it is likely the larger model will follow.

The tiny smart fortwo features a rear-mounted, direct injection, turbocharged, charge air cooled 799-cc 3-cylinder common rail diesel engine made by Suprex, which produces 40-horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque available at an extremely low 1,800 to 2,800 rpm. Its extremely light curb weight of 740 kilos (1,631 pounds) and high-tech "softip" sequential clutchless 6-speed Getrag automatic gearbox allow for adequate performance, launching from 0 to 100 km/h in 19.8 seconds. Yes, it's all about fuel economy.

How secure it the Santa Rosa, California company's hold on the smart franchise? ZAP has a ten-year license on the technology developed by Smart-Automobile LLC to Americanize the European-made Smart for the U.S. marketplace. In other words, don't expect DaimlerChrysler-sold smarts anytime soon.

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Who said that ZAP was intending to import the cdi? The cdi is so rare that describing a smart fortwo's enging as such in a general context is rather inaccurate.

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Note: there are numerous errors in this article - Don't blame me! - Mike T.

Smart Car a no-brainer for dealer

By Liz Chretien

newsletter@seacoastonline.com

EXETER - What?s half the size of a regular 4-door sedan, amazing on gas, and causes people to slam on their brakes and smile?

The Smart Car, that?s what. Engineered by Mercedes-Benz and Swatch Watches and dubbed the car of the future, this toy on wheels is taking Europe by storm. Judging by the 20,000-person waiting list, it will be doing the same here in the states - and I drove one of the first in the U.S. Monday at McFarland Ford in Exeter, the first East Coast dealer authorized to sell Smart Cars.

And what fun it was!

Smart Cars are two-seater, gas-powered cars being manufactured in America by ZAP!, a California-based manufacturing, marketing and distribution company specializing in electric, fuel cell and hybrid cars. The major benefit of a Smart Car is the gas mileage - 60 miles to the gallon, according to Smart Car?s UK Web site. In the U.S., the EPA?s final rating has not been returned yet.

The car has been on the market in Europe since 1998, but has never been available in the United States before.

The car has a three-cylinder, 45-horsepower turbo engine, weighs about 1,600 pounds, is 8 feet long and about 5 feet wide. It is available as a convertible or a hard top. And boy, does it attract attention.

As much as it looks like something Inspector Gadget would drive, once inside, I forgot all about the appearance. It felt no smaller than my Volkswagen Jetta, but without the back seat. Once I figured out how to start it, I was off and running with the convertible top down, getting more horn blasts, finger-pointing, and outright stares than if I?d been driving around topless. I had a blast.

Undoubtedly the best feature is the six-speed transmission with manual/automatic mode. The car has no clutch; to shift gears in manual mode I merely pushed the tiny shifter forward. The car downshifts on its own so there is no danger of stalling and displays little arrows to tell you when it?s time to shift.

I found the manual mode to be a great ride. The automatic mode was a bit less smooth, as the car always felt like it was shifting, but overall I was impressed with the ride. The Smart Car is not for those who crave speed, however; the speedometer only goes up to 80 and the only hit about 65-70 on the highway.

But the option to change the door panels for different colors makes up for the lack of speed. One day you might want to drive a black car with red doors; another day you might want to have one gray door and one green one. It?s up to you, because the panels come off easily to swap for another or to mix and match colors - talk about a unique option.

McFarland?s interest

McFarland Ford?s interest in the Smart Car came about after owner Sue McFarland Moynahan sighted one in Europe.

"I saw the car last summer and my daughter actually rode in one, and I was very impressed," she said. "I started doing research to find out if they were bringing them to this country."

And they are, thanks to ZAP! "We feel the timing is right, with people more environmentally focused," said Alex Campbell, director of communications for ZAP! "There should be more types of smarter transportation in the U.S. We?re out to prove there is a market for small, environmentally conscious cars in this country. And thousands are inquiring about it, so it?s a good sign."

ZAP! is starting to deliver to dealers around the U.S. According to Campbell, 45 states are approved to carry the car. "We hope to have dealerships selling them by the end of the year," he said. "We?re instituting a big push to get the cars to the dealers and get the dealers trained. We want a car in each dealership in each of the states."

According to Moynahan, the car will be priced between $27,000 and $29,000.

Safety was also a big consideration in creating the Smart Car, Campbell said. The car doesn?t react in a traditional way in a crash because it has no crumple zones, but among other features has a Tridion safety shell, much like the steel safety cages in race cars designed to hold their shape in a collision. It offers standard safety features like driver and passenger airbags, antilock brakes, and skid control.

"This car is a necessity in Europe with gas prices nearing $5 per gallon," Campbell said. "We think it?s perfect timing to bring it here with the gas prices, environmental concerns, oil concerns that have everyone thinking about these things. We all should think about saving gas."

"It?s a very desirable product for us," Moynahan said. "There is no competition with our models."

Moynahan said the dealership received the car on July 11, and she and her staff have been having fun with it. "We?ve had a lot of attention so far," she said. "We?re ordering more in the fall as they become available. We?re excited, because it?s a nice addition to the Ford franchise and it offers something we don?t offer now, which is gas efficiency."

Moynahan said that in her opinion, even though the EPA hasn?t finished its gas mileage rating process, the worst-case scenario would be 50 miles to a gallon in a Smart Car. At gas prices averaging around $2.50 per gallon, it would cost around $20 to fill one up.

Moynahan said in order to get the car, she submitted information about the dealership and its ability to be a dealer, and ZAP! chose dealers geographically around the country. The closest dealership to McFarland selling the Smart Car is in Pennsylvania.

"We?re very happy to work with McFarland Ford," said Campbell. "They are taking the lead like us. They are the first to complete the training and now they?ve gotten the first car. Our hats are off to them, because this car will soon be a worldwide phenomenon."

I know I?ll certainly consider it the next time I?m in the market for a car - as long as I can get door panels in purple.

post-5-1122699570.jpg

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Note: there are numerous errors in this article - Don't blame me! - Mike T.

Smart Car a no-brainer for dealer

By Liz Chretien

newsletter@seacoastonline.com

EXETER - What?s half the size of a regular 4-door sedan, amazing on gas, and causes people to slam on their brakes and smile?

According to Moynahan, the car will be priced between $27,000 and $29,000. .

ah HA! Well, that just doomed the Smart in the US. There is no way I would spend that much money for it, even if it got 200 mpg!

I hope that price is WAY off.

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Yeah, so long as G&K in CA have to convert these cars, that alone will add about $6K US to the price. Bear in mind that they are USED cars too, so $27K+ is way off base!.

In Canada the price begins at $16,700 CDN, about $14K US flat.

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Yeah, so long as G&K in CA have to convert these cars, that alone will add about $6K US to the price. Bear in mind that they are USED cars too, so $27K+ is way off base!.

In Canada the price begins at $16,700 CDN, about $14K US flat.

So, converting a CA to US road ready vehicle would take...? Years ago, My former boss bought a truck in Nisku Alberta, (I had the tshirt, "Where the hell is Nisku?") and it had to be fixed for US certs. What I remember is, the speedo needed to be miles not Kilometers, and needed front brakes. Thats about it. I wonder what is entailed in getting a used vehicle into the US for legal use. I want 70+mpg!

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A number of items would have to be changed to meet US specs:

    ditch H7/H1 E-Code headlights with electric adjusters in favour of DOT compliant fixed lights (of course the E-Codes are better)

    [*]British-specification MPH-km/h speedometer

    [*]ignition interlock for the steering (the car has a gearshift interlock now)

    [*]passive knee restraints for unbelted drivers (all the better to shatter their hips and knees in a collision, but the NHSTA requires it)

    [*]do something to the cdi Diesel engine to make it comply with EPA pollution control standards (US anti-pollution legislation rewards cars which have lower HC, NOx and PM emissions, at the total expense of carbon dioxide, where the sky's the limit). This could include retro-fitting a particulate trap to the exhaust (the cdi already has a catalyst)

    [*]alter the door structure so the car will pass the US side-impact test (the smart meets Canadian and EU side impact test requirements of course)

    [*]crash test the car

      ...and there are undoubtedly many more issues.

      The problem is that many of these certifications are extremely expensive to do.

      Our CDN cars have a sticker in the engine bay saying: "This vehicle is not intended for importation into the US", which would not help much...

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A number of items would have to be changed to meet US specs:

  • ditch H7/H1 E-Code headlights with electric adjusters in favour of DOT compliant fixed lights (of course the E-Codes are better)

[*]British-specification MPH-km/h speedometer

[*]ignition interlock for the steering (the car has a gearshift interlock now)

[*]passive knee restraints for unbelted drivers (all the better to shatter their hips and knees in a collision, but the NHSTA requires it)

[*]do something to the cdi Diesel engine to make it comply with EPA pollution control standards (US anti-pollution legislation rewards cars which have lower HC, NOx and PM emissions, at the total expense of carbon dioxide, where the sky's the limit). This could include retro-fitting a particulate trap to the exhaust (the cdi already has a catalyst)

[*]alter the door structure so the car will pass the US side-impact test (the smart meets Canadian and EU side impact test requirements of course)

[*]crash test the car

...and there are undoubtedly many more issues.

The problem is that many of these certifications are extremely expensive to do.

Our CDN cars have a sticker in the engine bay saying: "This vehicle is not intended for importation into the US", which would not help much...

So just basicly ...remove the sticker? LOL

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passive knee restraints for unbelted drivers (all the better to shatter their hips and knees in a collision, but the NHSTA requires it)

I just noticed this. No US car has knee restraints...never heard of them. What are they?

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I think it is just extra padding on the lower section of the dash where your knees would connect should you not be fastened in place...

Eddie

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Ah. We have a seatbelt law in the US so I would think that would cover it. Not that many people pay attention, but the law is there.

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It's possible that I was thinking of the days when some cars came with electric mouse-up-the-pillar passive shoulder only seatbelts, in which the lap belt had to be fastened manually. The NHTSA decided that if the driver did not fasten the lap belt, the lower half of their body needed to be restrained passively too, using knee bolsters.

My 1989 Peugeot 405 is an example of this - Peugeot was too cheap to fit front airbags so they re-designed the whole dash for the US market to make it much more bulky, so it could act as a so-called passive knee restraint. Luckily the CDN Peugeots never had the electric seatbelts, hehe

Anyway, since the smart has full-sized airbags (not the smaller "Eurobags"), the pasive knee bolsters are likely not required.

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Allegedly the laws are made for the people by the people, right? If so I think it time to change the rules, or at least create a loop hope (hole). Hell all politicians are great at making loop holes. So I have taken a different strategy I have written my Congressional Representatives and Senators ask them to consider allowing a One-Time Importation of Fuel-Efficiency Vehicle from Canada that is excluded from NHTSA and EPA rules if purchased for personal use. I know it a long shot, but with the heat our politicians are getting concerning fuel prices maybe the timing is right. It seems lately we keep turning to your friends in Canada for real world solutions. I stated this in another topic but I figure it was worth repeating here.

FYI: the following is NHTSA Docket Simple Search Page and the numbers below are for the Smart Car.

http://dms.dot.gov/search/searchFormSimple.cfm

16401

15428

21334

21912

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