Thursday, August 17, 2006

New smart will spearhead the turnaround

More rumours circulating about the next-edition smart fortwo, crucial to putting smart in the black. A highly-placed source indicates that the 2008 model will be "more comfortable and more powerful." The spec is not yet finalised but much will be revealed when the new model is launched in Europe in spring 2007. The next stage in the program will be a right-hand-drive version for the UK and elsewhere. Then the car will be launched in the USA in 2008. The question remains about detail-spec differences between Canada, the USA and other markets. Will the gas-engined car make it to Canada? Dealer sources would indicate that this is the case but HQ are not saying.

The marketing in the USA, although not tied to Mercedes dealers, will follow the smart worldwide format. The branding, look and feel of the dealers will follow that in other markets. We can confirm that Roger Penske was in Toronto recently, arriving in his private jet, to view Canadian dealerships, the market in Canada being treated as the test market for North America. Penske will head the US marketing effort and will have input into the car specification for this important market.

Smart are pleased at the sale of some 7,000 cars in Canada since the launch, running well ahead of expectation. Can they repeat the success in the far-bigger US market? RLT

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