Webster, 51, started his auto career in 1994 at Infiniti, where he rose through the sales organization. He was hired by Mercedes in 2001 as marketing manager of the San Francisco region, overseeing 10 dealers. He then moved to Mercedes' New Jersey headquarters in 2004 as marketing manager for the Northeast.
There he handled 26 dealers that account about 19 percent of Mercedes' U.S. business. In 2009 he became the region's area manager and in 2012 was promoted to general manager of used-car and fleet operations.
Webster says his California background and feel for the state's ecological mind-set will be a plus in marketing the EV in that state.
In early May, Smart rolled out the ForTwo electric in California and seven Northeast states with the strictest emissions requirements. The EV will debut in the other 42 states this fall.
California ads will consist primarily of radio spots during commuting times, but a national campaign will be launched when the car is available in all 50 states, Webster said.
"Smart is known as a sustainable brand, so when you add on the electric component, it fits right in with those brand attributes," said Webster.
Although Webster declined to forecast sales for the EV, Smart is counting on the electric car to draw new customers.
An option to rent the battery is a key selling point. The price of the EV is $20,650, without the battery -- a savings of $5,100 from the $25,750 price with the battery.
Monthly battery rental is $80, plus taxes, and covers annual maintenance and replacement, if necessary.
Lease customers pay $199 a month, with a $2,000 down, with the battery rental included. The prices are before a federal tax credit of $7,500. California also offers a $2,500 tax credit.
So far, Webster said, 75 percent of buyers are choosing the battery rental package. He would like to see that rise to about 90 percent. c