By Christoph Rauwald Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
DETROIT -(Dow Jones)- The president and chief executive of DaimlerChrysler AG's (DCX) Smart minicar division Ulrich Walker said Sunday sales for the Fortwo model are expected to rise in 2007.
'We're expecting the new model to push sales this year above last year's level,' Walker told Dow Jones Newswires at the North American International Auto Show.
The Smart division saw deliveries fall 22% on the year to 112,100 vehicles in full-year 2006. The Fortwo accounted for around 70% of the unit's sales last year as sales of the Roadtser and Fortwo model phased out. Walker said the internal targets have been 'more than fulfilled' ahead of the upcoming model changeover, without elaborating further.
Smart is set to launch a new version of its tiny two-seater model in April 2007, and plans a U.S. debut for the brand in the first quarter 2008. For the entry in the U.S. market, DaimlerChrysler signed a General Distributor Agreement, or GDA, with UnitedAuto Group Inc. (UAG) last year. According to previous company statement, DaimlerChrysler estimates the 'market potential' to be around 20,000 sales per year.
'I think there a lot of people out there who are looking for low costs of ownership and are concerned about traffic congestion,' UnitedAuto Group's CEO Roger Penske told Dow Jones Newswires in Detroit. He declined to give a specific sales target for the Smart brand in the U.S.
'Smart sold around 4,000 cars in Canada in its first year, the U.S. auto market is about eleven times as big as the Canadian, and if we get around 50% of this sales level here, this would be a success,' he said. Penske said he received 1,100 applications from interested dealers for a possible franchises. From these applicants, UAG will choose between 50 and 60 dealers for the brand's launch in the U.S., Penske said, adding that the company will go on a roadshow to Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit and New York over the next 30 days.
Penske reiterated that the Smart Fortwo will go on sale for 'a price below $15,000'.
Company Web site: http://www.daimlerchrysler.com