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the trademark should be presented in lower case.

Wednesday, 28 June, 2006

An outfit called ZAP® started in 1994 to sell electric transportation devices over the internet. ZAP is an acronym for “zero air pollution”. Their website is infamous for it’s strong price-to-quality co-relation. ZAP offers the lowest prices on the Internet. Zap’s product line is largely unique to their own site.

In 1995, ZAP was one of the first companies in the world to market electric transportation on the Internet via its website ZAPWORLD.COM … ZAP continued to add to its product line; in 1999 ZAP added electric motorbikes; in 2001 it added electric dive scooters; in 2003 ZAP announced its first electric automobiles, including the first-ever production electric automobile imported from its manufacturing partner in China; in 2004 ZAP introduced electric ATVs and the fuel-efficient Smart [sic] Car.

Rumors persist that ZAP poured thirty-million usd to work out how to modify the 2003 smart to meet US specification. DCX refused to sell cars directly to ZAP. Rumors persisted that DCX was intending to bring the brand to the US, as they have in Canada, but ZAP persisted. They purchased cars en masse from European dealers at full retail and shipped them to their facility in California. The Americanizing process is estimated to cost $6500. The “Smart Car Americanized by ZAP” hit the highway in 2005 selling as a novelty in the $30000 range, as opposed to the factory models which start at $15000usd in Canada. SCAZ is not allowed to use smart’s trade dress, and has a dealer network largely in Arizona and California. Entering their third year of production, they may have sold 100 cars.

In factory trim the eccentric, small-for-Europe car tests at 66 highway-miles-per-gallon. (Canadian model in U.S. gallons.) The SKD JDM smart k is the only non-domestic branded vehicle which qualifies for Japan’s distinctive keijidōsha status. It is that small. The smart is the length of the width of a standard parallel-parking space.

The Mini was specifically designed and intended to be the smallest vehicle which would meet US-DOT safety standards. DCX and BMW together challenged the DOT standard (2004) which inexplicably dictated specific size requirements for automotive components in the name of safety. This was similar to Ford challenging the unitary headlight standard in 1983 which has since allowed more effective lighting, daytime running lights, and differently shaped headlights on American cars.

If one chooses, a new non-“hot rod” car may now be smaller than the Mini. smart’s best selling and only surviving model, called in other markets fortwo, displaces around 60% of the air a Mini does. Because the vehicle was designed around the idea of safe, efficient transportation, the entire vehicle is a roll cage. Among the novelties available are replacements for the few plastic panels, which allow a smart owner to readily change the color of the car, or use panels with pattens or anything else customizers can imagine. Transparent roof panels are available.

Yesterday a press release was jointly issued by Daimler-Chrysler and United Auto Group, an international chain of auto dealers which is part of the Penske Group.

Since October 1998 the smart fortwo [sic] has attracted more than 750,000 customers in 36 countries … The successor to the smart fortwo will be launched in Europe next year and will be available in the USA for the first time the following year.

The rumored replacement model has been assumed to be a reworking of the original car focusing upon US compliance. United Auto will be handling the brand exclusively starting in the 2008 model year. They have no DCX-branded dealers in Texas, so we may have to go out of state to get one anytime soon. They are expected to start in the $16000 range, get hybrid-like mileage and could be the cleanest vehicle on the road in the event someone decides to push biodiesel blends for use in the vehicle.

It’s not clear whether UAG will build full scale “smart centre” environments or if the brand will merely be added to existing dealers.

So, would you even consider buying such a thing?

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