Smart ForTwos on US firm's shopping list

Rebuffed by Smart GmbH, ZAP pursues thousands of vehicles through broker

Boeblingen, Germany. Smart GmbH allegedly has a stockpile of 100,000 cars, but the

DaimlerChrysler unit is still rebuffing California-based Zero Air Pollution's efforts to obtain a billion euros worth of them.

ZAP CEO Steve Schneider says he placed an order for the vehicles to meet high demand for the ForTwo model in the US. Potential buyers have reportedly signed up for 14,000 units.

Smart officials have denied that Schneider ever placed an order and that the company ever held high-level meetings with him.

So far, Schneider has obtained his vehicles from a US company, Smart-Automobile LLC, led by Thomas Heidemann, a German.

ZAP isn't giving up, though. It is now seeking cars from independent importers.

Italian businessman Gianfranco Favero has inquired whether a large dealer chain based in southern Germany could deliver 10,000 ForTwo models with extras such as metallic paint and aluminum wheels for 7,200 euros a unit. (The list price is 13,400 euros.)

Favero has confirmed to Automobilwoche that the two-seaters were intended for ZAP.

Smart is expressing doubts that ZAP can get the vehicles. "We don't sell to middlemen," a spokeswoman said.

She also denied that Smart had huge vehicle inventories on hand, although "the inventory for the ForFour and Roadsters is above average."

The ForTwo is selling well.

Smart itself introduced the ForTwo in the US at the Detroit auto show. But the company decided against exporting the vehicle due to the high cost of meeting US requirements.

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