Mercedes-Benz expects to have 100 dealers ready to sell the Smart ForTwo microcar when it takes back the Smart franchise on July 1.
"We will pretty much have a functioning network," said Ernst Lieb, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.
Mercedes is taking over the sales and distribution of the ailing Smart brand from Penske Automotive Group. Executives say they have the marketing budget to boost sales of the tiny two-seat cars.
Lieb said Mercedes already has asked about 30 of its dealers to pick up the franchise.
To increase public awareness of the brand, Smart probably will create its first TV commercials, says Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA. Penske primarily used event marketing and social media to promote Smart.
Mercedes dealers will not be required to have a stand-alone store or a separate showroom for Smart. But Lieb said they will need adequate room in existing showrooms to display Smart cars, in a separate space. Details on showroom displays will be worked out in the next four to six weeks.
Under Penske, Smart has 75 dealers. Franchises of 21 dealers who don't have Mercedes-Benz are being canceled. Penske is buying back equipment and tooling from terminated dealerships.
Penske will continue to train and offer technical support to Smart dealers this summer because Mercedes has yet to set up that part of the business, said Lieb.
Lieb said Mercedes-Benz USA expects to have 10 to 15 employees dedicated to Smart. Penske has 25 employees for Smart, including its president, Jill Lajdziak, who will stay with the Penske organization.