Some Smart drivers are getting a break in London. Smart has negotiated an agreement with National Car Parks, which runs England's largest parking lot chain. The deal: A driver of a Smart City car using National's lot on London's west side gets a 25 percent discount. An electronic sensor at the entrance recognizes a Smart car and issues a discount-rate ticket. Says a spokesman for National, "We acknowledge the real contribution Smart is making to solving some of the issues facing motorists."
GREEN AND RECYCLED - Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. was given an award from the U.S. Green Building Council for its new 624,000-square-foot campus in Torrance, Calif. The buildings house about 2,000 workers and feature high-efficiency insulation, a solar-electric system that could power 500 homes and a water-recycling system for toilet flushing and irrigation. The buildings were constructed of 95 percent recycled materials. The steel used in the construction came from recycled automobiles.
SHARING THE LIMELIGHT - Ford Motor Co. won't be the only brand in the spotlight at its 100th birthday party next month. But it has only itself to blame - or credit, depending on your point of view. That's because it has named another brand icon, Coca-Cola, as the official beverage of Ford's 100th anniversary celebration. Coke even developed a commemorative eight-ounce bottle for the event. And, believe it or not, there was one for sale on eBay last week. The starting bid: $9.99.
MINI STORY, PART 1 - Mini may be a hot nameplate, but it still gets complaints. In fact, it ranks near the bottom of the latest J.D. Power and Associates study on initial quality. (See story, Page 27.) In a speech in Detroit last week, Jack Pitney, general manager for Mini USA, acknowledged Mini's problems, saying owners' No. 1 complaint was about cupholders. "There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the cupholders," he said. "It's just the actual placement of the cupholders is such that you can't get a tall Starbucks latte into the cupholder." Pitney said that until a redesign, Mini is appeasing owners by sending them cups that will fit in the holders. They also get a letter that Pitney said reads: "We screwed up. We know that you guys don't like our cupholders. Hopefully now you can fit that latte in your Mini."
MINI STORY, PART 2 - Pitney also shared this figure with his Detroit audience: The average $500,000 investment needed to open a U.S. store generated $1.2 million in additional gross profit for each dealership. Mini entered the U.S. market last year with 70 franchises. All are stand-alones.