A California company planning to import 60-mpg cars popular in Europe said Monday that it had cleared the final government hurdle: a certificate of compliance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We're legal now," ZAP CEO Steve Schneider told MSNBC.com. "We're going to start filling consumer orders right after the first of the year."
Priority will be given to people who placed $1,000 deposits, Schneider said, and then to those who have signed up for one without a deposit.
ZAP, a publicly traded company that had specialized in all-electric vehicles, has been working with another company and earlier received permission from the Transportation Department's Highway Safety Administration.
The cars are made by DaimlerChrysler in Europe and go by the brand name 'smart.' Smart USA has plans to sell a small SUV smart in 2006 but not the two-door versions that get 60 miles on a tank of gas.
ZAP last May signed an exclusive distribution contract with an importer, smart-automobile, for the rights to sell 15,000 of the cars a year in the United States.
Since then, nearly 6,000 people have placed orders, ZAP says.
Schneider said ZAP still has to line up dealers across the country, and hopes to have 150 by the second quarter of 2005.
ZAP is also hoping to finalize a partnership with a national chain that has 600 locations, Schneider said.
Car warranties will be 12 months or 12,000 miles through smart-automobile, Schneider added, and Zap will also offer an extended warranty of 36 months or 36,000 miles.