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Mercedes and Swatch promise colorful two-seat car

April 19, 1997

MUNICH, Germany (AP) _ It will, its makers say, get more than 60 miles to the gallon, zip around town at up to 80 mph and even squeeze into tiny parking spaces.

And if the color on your Swatchmobile mini-car doesn’t suit you, well, you can just change it.

Owners of the two-seater, a joint venture between Germany’s Mercedes-Benz and the Swiss watchmaker Swatch, will be able to buy a special kit to alter the hue and design of much of the body as often as they like.

The 8-foot car will go on sale in April 1998, Mercedes-Benz board member Juergen Hubbert announced Friday. Also known as the Smart, it will cost the equivalent of $9,350 to $11,600. For now, there are no plans to sell it outside Europe.

The manufacturers, who say it will get upwards of 62 miles to the gallon, are negotiating for drivers as young as 16 to be able to take the Smart for a spin _ the current cutoff is 18. They also want parking rules adjusted to let drivers park it perpendicular to the sidewalk, tucked in between cars that are parallel parked.

First-year production is expected to reach 100,000, the makers say.

Depending on the motor, the car can accelerate from zero to 37 mph in six to seven seconds and reach a top speed of 80 mph. It weighs 1,540 pounds.

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