Saturday, June 10, 2006

Daimler eyes U.S. partner for Smart

HEIDELBERG, Germany, June 7 (Reuters) - DaimlerChrysler is looking for a partner that could help sell the Smart ForTwo minicar in the United States, Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said in an interview with Germany's Capital magazine.
"The sales network is decisive...It is certain that we want to cooperate with a third party," he told the financial magazine.
"The small city car doesn't fit optimally in many cases to the strong luxury positioning of the Mercedes-Benz brand and its locations," Zetsche continued, adding that only the group's Dodge brand came into question here.
"But it (Dodge) already has a very broad product portfolio. For our ForTwo we need our own smart way," the CEO said.
Zetsche reiterated the group is in favour of selling the car in the U.S. market and that a final decision would come this month.
Earlier, Daimler reported that deliveries of its Smart cars to customers fell nearly 22 percent in the first five months of the year.
Sales have been hurt by falling demand for the Smart ForFour, which it will scrap from its range -- leaving only the original ForTwo left from erstwhile plans that once envisioned expanding the line to four separate models.
Daimler hopes that dropping the ForFour model will help premium division Mercedes Car Group, in which the Smart brand is included, hit its target of at least 7 percent operating margin next year.
Zetsche reaffirmed in the interview he was certain that Mercedes was on track to meet this goal. Source.

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