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By Samuel R. Avro on Mar 25, 2009 with no responses

Lower Gas Prices and Bad Economy make Smart Car Orphans

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The $99 required deposit is refundable, which make it easier for a buyer to change their mind and make orphans out of the Smart cars instead.

More than thirty percent of U.S. Smart car customers are leaving orders on car lots, as lower fuel prices peered with the economic recession blunt the appeal the tiny car had last year, a company spokesman said.

The Smart car, made by Mercedes-Benz, and distributed in the U.S. by Penske Automotive Group, sat on dealers lots for an average of 28 days in February before being sold, according to the Power Information Network.

While far better than the industry’s average of 95 days to move a car off the lot, it’s currently taking twice as long as it took for the Smart car in the summer, when gasoline peaked at $4.11 a gallon. The nationwide average for regular gasoline was about $1.98 Wednesday, according to AAA.

The company uses the term “orphans” when referring to the abandoned cars.

It’s fairly easy for customers to back out, since the $99 deposit required when the order is placed, is refundable.

The company says they have a bank of 30,000 prospective buyers who have payed the reservation fee but have not taken delivery. About 35% back out, vs. about 30% in November.

The Smart car is sold at 75 dealerships across the country.

“Are a few more people canceling (compared to) last year? Yes,” says spokesman Ken Kettenbeil. “But certainly we’re not seeing a huge falloff.”

But according to the sales tracker Autodata, Smart sold 1,415 cars in February, a steep drop-off from the more than 2,400-a-month sales pace of last spring and summer.

The cute-looking Smart car achieves 36 mpg in combined city-highway driving making it an ideal choice for customers who are looking to save during times of high gas prices.