Virginia Saturn dealer Huddy Hyman has sold his three Paris-area Smart Centers to the brand's manufacturer, Micro Compact Car, a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler AG.
The parties did not disclose financial details of the deal, but Hyman said he is happy with the buyout.
Hyman invested $7 million over the past two years to open stores in suburban Paris, considered the key market for the Smart car venture because of its congested streets and fashion-minded consumers.
The sale comes as Smart prepares to launch a new distribution and retailing plan across Europe that would put the little two-seaters into the showrooms of Mercedes-Benz stores, as well as Smart Centers.
Hyman said that he supported the change, which probably would have doubled his sales volume.
But Hyman, 47, who helped formulate the Daimler venture in the mid-1990s, said he saw the change as a good time to bow out.
'I still believe Smart is going to take off,' said Hyman last week from his Midlothian, Va., Saturn store. 'The biggest reason for selling out was just time. I was spending so much time traveling and working with Smart. I've been missing out on some things with my children.'
The American became involved with the venture almost by accident. Originally, Smart executives had sought Hyman out after reading media articles describing Saturn Corp.'s approach to selling cars.
Hyman talked at length with Smart officials and traveled to Europe to meet with potential Smart dealers to explain Saturn concepts, such as no-pressure sales tactics and no-dicker selling.
Smart executives told Hyman that some European retailers had trouble grasping the concepts, and they encouraged him to take the huge suburban Paris market.
Hyman operates five Saturn stores and a Land Rover dealership in the Richmond-Chesapeake Bay area.
Sales have grown for the Smart brand over the past three to four months. Hyman said his three stores were selling 150 to 175 cars a month in total, and that volume was rising.
MCC's new plan is to fan sales by putting the cars into areas within Mercedes showrooms dubbed 'Smart Corners.'