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Add the smart fortwo to the growing list of products impacted by the economic downturn here in the United States. Last year, the diminutive urban runabout was one of the U.S. market's few bright spots, with its small dealer network moving nearly 25,000 units and busting through sales expectations along the way.

For much of the summer months in 2008, the fortwo was actually selling for a premium on the open market, as dealerships only stocked vehicles that had actually been ordered and for which deposits had been collected. According to Sean Sarraff, brand manager of Smart Center Germantown in Maryland, "Since November, it seems people are backing out of purchasing a Smart." These unwanted vehicles end up as orphan cars and are made available to purchase through the automaker's Smart Express shopping system.

What happened? Apparently, a large number of the micro machines were ordered up by families as second cars or as toys for the wealthy. In these tough financial times, toys and playthings are expendable, and that's what seems to be happening with a certain number of smart orders. The good news, though, is that there are finally enough orphan units available that long lead times can generally be avoided for those ready to make a purchase.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd']

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