By STEVE MERTL
The fuel-sipping, diesel-engined Smart is getting more attention with pump prices pushing through the $1-a-litre barrier. (CP PHOTO/ho-Dean Husby)
VANCOUVER (CP) - As fuel prices break the buck-a-litre barrier across Canada, buyers of those cute little Smart cars are looking, well, smart.
"I laugh at my friends who have trucks who pay $100 at the gas station," says Alexandra Carstens of Vancouver. "For me it's about $18 to $20 dollars and that will take me all the way to Kamloops."
But even before pump prices passed the $1 psychological threshold, Smart car dealers were selling out of the tiny two-seat runabouts, which resemble oversized athletic shoes on wheels.
"The Smart has been exceptionally successful," says auto industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers. "For the type of vehicle it is, it's really struck a chord in Canada."
Smart, a unit of automotive giant DaimlerChrysler, was launched in Canada last fall after six years in the European marketplace.
Sales of 2,390 cars as of July seem small in Canada's 1.5-million annual auto sales but DesRosiers says Smart has outsold a host of mainstream models, including BMW and Mercedes SUVs, Cadillac, Suzuki and Mini Cooper.
"Gas prices I think are part of it but equally important if not more important is the fact that it is a vehicle you could differentiate yourself with," he says. "The Smart car does that better than virtually any other vehicle in the marketplace."
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