WASHINGTON More than 30,000 Americans have put down deposits for Smart cars in advance of the brands formal U.S. launch next month, Daimler AG executives said today.
The first-year demand will exceed the number of cars that will be built for the United States, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. He and other executives declined to forecast sales.
Zetsche said the Smart ForTwo -- a tiny two-seater with a 1-liter engine that gets as much as 45 mpg -- will be more than a fad. More consumers will want a fun, safe car that is economical to drive, has low greenhouse gas emissions and is easy to park, he said.
The only vehicle I privately own is a Smart, Zetsche said.
He said Daimler wants to partner with a U.S. city for a test of all-electric Smart cars, just as it has done with London and will do with a city in France.
He also hinted that a diesel-powered Smart will come to the United States, but he said Daimler will move cautiously before trying other body types.
While in Washington, Zetsche also gave a luncheon address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was scheduled to meet later in the day with top White House officials -- but not with President Bush.
Smart to dealerships in 1Q
After a series of missteps and a major restructuring this year, Daimlers Smart subsidiary should be profitable in 2008, Zetsche said.
Smart USA, a division of Penske Automotive Group, is distributing Smart ForTwos. Daimler executives said today that 50 dealerships will be open for the Smart launch.
There will be 65 U.S. dealerships by the end of the first quarter and 74 by the end of 2008, officials said. Thirty-three of those stores will be co-located with Mercedes-Benz franchises, said Smart USA President David Schembri.
Nine of the dealerships are Penske-owned, said Anders Sundt Jensen, head of global marketing for Smart. He declined to predict total Smart production next year.
The United States is the 37th country in which Smarts will be sold. Globally, more than 770,000 Smarts have been sold in 10 years.