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When is Small too Small? Are the New Microcars Too Micro for U.S. Tastes?

Gas prices are expected to reach $4 a gallon in some parts of the U.S. this summer. Because of the ever increasing gas prices, automakers are expecting consumers to continue to flock to smaller more fuel efficient cars, such as the Mini or Honda Fit. Next year the Smart ForTwo will make it to these shores and GM has also shown three new small Chevy concepts at the New York Auto Show. Will these cars that are smaller than the current popular subcompact cars, such as the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris sell?

According to CSM Worldwide the U.S. will not immediately fall for these new “mini” cars. They predict that these “microcars” such as the new Smart ForTwo will not matter much to the U.S. market and most buyers will pay the extra premium to buy something a little larger.

By buying a Fit, for example, rather than a Smart, “you are still going to get excellent fuel economy, a substantially bigger vehicle overall,” says Dave Terebessy, a CSM analyst.

Safety may be an issue with the microcars, especially since they are shorter than 150 inches long. Currently the smallest car sold in the U.S. is the Mini at 145.6 inches long. The GM concept cars were only 141 inches long.

Even with these predictions, automakers are still moving forward with the small cars. The ForTwo will be here next year and so far the car’s website smartusa.com has had over 1 million visitors, with over 50,000 people requesting the Smart newsletter. CSM also predicts that by 2010 Chevy will sell a microcar based on one of the concepts that they displayed earlier this year.

In addition to persuading the consumers to buy these vehicles, automakers are also going to have issues convincing dealers to sell the cars because of the small profit margins on these cars. (The ForTwo will start at $12,000)

The question remains: Would you buy a car that is smaller or as small as the current Mini because of the rising gas prices? Would you feel safe in a car that is considerably smaller than the gas-guzzling SUVs on the road?

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