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Smart Cars make up for lack of brawn with brains

Keeler Motor Car Co. in Latham, the area's only Smart Car dealer, has nearly 500 refundable $99 deposits from people waiting for one of the 8-foot, 6-inch vehicles. Keeler is one of only 64 dealers in the nation that carries the USA brand.

Keeler Marketing Manager Archie Coupe called the Smart Car "very popular," especially as gas prices rise.

"People reserve these cars, and they come in and take them," said Coupe. "Or, we sell them to the public as quickly as they come in."

Ken Kettenbeil, a spokesman for Smart USA, said that the Fortwo is basically sold out for 2008. He said that reservations in recent weeks have surged because of soaring gas prices.

"We have 30,000 people nationwide on a reservation list that could take anywhere from nine months to a little over a year," said Kettenbeil.

Walter Mahoski, an art teacher in Schenectady, waited 11 months for his Fortwo Passion coupe. He said that he's getting more than 50 miles per gallon from the small red car.

Mahoski paid $16,500 for the car, upgrading to heated leather seats, rain-detecting windshield wipers and a CD player.

Mahoski, like many Smart Car drivers, was first attracted to the car because of its design and because of its ability to fit into tight parking spots.

"Living in Schenectady I've had to park in some small spots," said Mahoski.

"But where I might have to parallel park another car, I can pull right in with the Smart Car. You could fit two Smart Cars into one spot.""

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