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Smart Cars...smart choice?

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- Don Kimsey of Albany says he loves his compact Smart Car, and the fact that it measures only 8 feet and 2 inches in length just adds to its charm.

Kimsey and his wife Becky each own one of the French vehicles manufactured by Daimler-Benz, and they say they drive them every day.

"I love it," said Don Kimsey of his Smart Car, which he's named "Lil

Flea."

The Kimseys said they were first introduced to the Smart Cars when they were visiting their daughter in Okinawa, Japan.

"We saw a Smart Car over there, and we were really intrigued," said Don Kimsey. "Becky was more interested in it at first and came home and looked up the information on it."

Becky Kimsey said she had heard of the small vehicles before she had seen them in Japan and wanted to know more about them. The Smart Cars were an original project started by Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch and Mercedes Benz. The name Smart is an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART.

Don Kimsey said after some research into the pint-sized vehicle, the couple finally decided to take the leap a year ago and purchase one of the cars.

"It took a year and a half to get mine," said the car owner. "I hated the wait; they (the dealership) really didn't tell me how long it was going to take."

He said because the Smart Cars are still somewhat unknown in the United States, there aren't many dealerships that keep the vehicles in stock.

"Even if you are going to a dealership, they still make you order online," said Don Kimsey. "They build for you to your specifications."

Currently, the closest dealerships that carry Smart Cars are in Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla.

Kimsey said his wife was luckier than he was.

"She purchased hers from the lot at the Atlanta dealership," he said. "They had a white one very similar to the one she had ordered."

Becky Kimsey said she had originally wanted a silver convertible but was too eager to wait as her husband did.

"We would take turns driving his," she said. "I didn't want to wait any longer, so I started looking around for orphans."

According to the Kimseys, orphans are cars that have been ordered and built for prospective owners who never claim them.

Don Kimsey said all that was required by him was a $99 deposit for the waiting list.

"They keep you up to date on your car while it is being built," he said. "They call and make sure you still want it before they start the process."

Kimsey said the deposit is returnable if the buyer happens to change his or her mind.

As for problems with the vehicle, Don Kimsey said that he has experienced only two.

"A light came on once when I was driving, and when I checked it out in the manual, it said that I shouldn't drive the car and it should be immediately fixed," he said. "The problem had something to do with the seatbelt; it was an electronics problem."

Kimsey said he dialed the 1-800 number that was given for customer service and maintenance and was pleasantly surprised by the service.

"I actually talked to a real person," he said. "While I was on the phone with him, he arranged for a tow truck to come and get my car from my house and take it to the maintenance center in Atlanta."

Kimsey said because of the car's warranty, all the towing fees to Atlanta from Albany were free of charge as well as the parts and maintenance.

The only other problem he said he has had with his Smart Car is that he had to put air in a tire once.

"My wife has never had a problem with her vehicle," he said.