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U.S. Smart Car Distributor Hikes Sales Estimates

Surging gasoline prices help boost demand for the small, fuel-efficient auto.

The U.S. distributor of the tiny Smart car hiked its 2008 sales estimate for the small vehicle July 30 as U.S. automakers reel from a sharp sales drop in big gasoline-guzzling trucks. Roger Penske, chairman of the Penske Automotive Group of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Smart's sole American distributor, predicted sales would boom beyond an original estimate of 20,000 vehicles. The tiniest car on sale in the U.S. market accommodates just two adults. It is assembled in Hambach, France. "We expect Smart sales will come in between 24,000 and 27,500 during 2008," Penske said. The Smart "fortwo" car went on sale in the U.S. for the first time in January. Penske said surging gasoline prices had helped boost demand for the small, fuel-efficient car. If Smart owner Daimler AG of Germany can deliver enough vehicles to the U.S., Smart sales could reach between 30,000 and 32,000 units in 2009, Penske said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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