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Can Smart Reinvent Itself?

U.S. distributor may teach the Germans what’s needed to save smart brand.

by on Jan.14, 2011

With the brand's sales off another 60%, last year, Smart USA boss Jill Lajdziak can only hope and wait for the distributor's planned 4-seat model.

It was the hit of 2008, its U.S. launch inadvertently timed to take advantage of the record run-up in fuel prices.  But since then, things haven’t gone nearly so well for the little Smart USA brand, which reported a nearly 60% drop in sales, last year alone, even as most makers reported double-digit gains.

In a bid to stave off disaster, the U.S. distributor, which is operated by Detroit entrepreneur Roger Penske, plans to introduce an all-new model later this year that will be built for it by Nissan, rather than Daimler, the German parent of the Smart brand.

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Might even more products be added to the U.S. line-up that aren’t available to Smart buyers in other parts of the world? That’s not out of the question, according to various company officials who are betting that Smart can rebound from its disastrous tumble.

“We’ve got a business to run,” and that means that Smart USA may have to make some critical moves that aren’t necessarily what the folks at Daimler AG headquarters, in Stuttgart would like,” acknowledges Jill Lajdziak, the U.S. distributor’s boss.

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Smart Brings In Outside Designer House

Aiming to counter slow sales with new small car.

by on Nov.17, 2010

An "outside" designer has been hired by Smart USA to work up a real-world version of this concept 4-seater due out by 2012.

Struggling to overcome cripplingly slow sales, Smart USA has brought in an outside design house to work on the new small car the maker is developing with help from Nissan.

Jill Lajdziak, smart USA president, confirmed to TheDetroitBureau.com that Penske Automotive Group, has turned to an outside design partner to work with Nissan on both the exterior and interior design for a four-seat Smart.

Lajdziak declined to identify the designer but confirmed the project is already well along.

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The project is particularly unusual because Smart USA is working directly with Nissan on the vehicle, without the participation of the smaller maker’s German parent, Daimler AG.

The 4-seater coming from Smart USA-Nissan is expected to be ready for the market by the end of 2011 or in early 2012, at the earliest.

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