Smart Sales Off to Speedy Start in U.S.

First French-built car sold in the U.S. for more than 20 years

Daimler AG's tiny Smart car has made a big splash in the U.S. with sales off to a speedy start in its first month on the market, distributor Penske Auto Group said Feb. 19. "We're really excited about the smart business," Roger Penske said. "We think it's the right car at the right time." Smart USA expects to sell between 20,000 and 25,000 of the fuel-sipping two seaters this year and Penske said he was pressing Daimler to ship more vehicles.

The Smart is the first French built car sold in the U.S. in more than 20 years, and 68 dealerships opened their doors nationwide in mid January. Some 1,400 smart for-twos were delivered in January and the company expects to deliver 1,500 more in February and another 2,000 in March, Penske said.

Penske Auto Group introduced Smart to U.S. consumers with a nation-wide tour last year aimed at generating buzz and demonstrating the car's reliability on long distances. More than 50,000 people took the car for a test drive and 30,000 others attended the road show demonstrations.

The bulk of the advertising budget has been spent on an internet campaign, Penske said. Consequently, the start-up costs have been very modest at about four million dollars since Smart USA was launched in January 2007, Penske said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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