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Daimler Smart

Daimler Smart

Probably no automobile better illustrates the changes gripping the industry than Daimler’s two-seat, super-efficient Smart car. The diminutive 55-mpg vehicle is a surprise hit in the U.S., where until recently SUVs accounted for half of new car sales. Perhaps the Smart Car's success shouldn't be such a surprise in a year when gasoline has topped $4 a gallon. Stuttgart-based Daimler, better known for its amply-proportioned Mercedes, has sold more than 11,000 Smarts in the U.S. since the car launched in January, and there's a waiting list. Worldwide, sales neared 70,000 units in the year's first half. The Smart division—a chronic money loser since its debut 10 years ago—is expected finally to post a profit for 2008.