Daimler Gets Smart from Penske Auto Group

Daimler and the Penske Auto Group are in the process of transitioning the distribution rights, management, sales and marketing activities of smart USA from Penske Automotive Group to Mercedes-Benz USA. The transition should be completed by the end of June.

It makes perfect sense as the Smart brand is manufactured by Daimler AG and was recently reorganized in Germany, where Smart is now managed as an independent brand, fully integrated into the Mercedes-Benz Cars business unit of the group.

"We are very excited about working toward integration of smart into the MBUSA organization, and look forward to working with our dealer partners to exceed customer expectations for this unique vehicle," said Mercedes-Benz President and CEO, Ernst Lieb. "The addition of smart, combined with our Autohaus dealer initiative, will help us build upon the tremendous momentum the Mercedes-Benz brand has achieved here in the U.S."

Interestingly, Smart just delivered its first electric drive vehicle to a Major in the U.S. Army, Mindy Kimball of Silver Spring, MD just over two weeks ago.

Also of note is the fact the brand sold over 100,000 units worldwide in 2010 but less than 6,000 in the U.S.

“I think the U.S. market is uniquely positioned and not a niche market for something that’s not a primary vehicle,” said Tony Pordon of Penske.

He added it wasn’t easy for them to handle a brand which had only one model and wasn’t a primary, but rather a third or fourth vehicle to a family. Especially during a period of less than $3 gas and a recession.

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“The U.S. is the only place in the world where Smart was not distributed by Mercedes Benz and I think this is a natural evolution for the line.”

Over 1.2 million Smart fortwo models have been sold worldwide since 1998. Since then, Smart has established itself as the think tank for urban and electric mobility for Daimler AG and plays an important role in the company's plans to make innovative automotive products like the car2go available in Europe and the U.S.

“They have entered into a deal with Renault to develop small and fuel-efficient vehicles and I think we’ll be seeing a line of products coming out of that collaboration,” Pordon concluded.

Mercedes has assured owners of the efficient little cars they are not being abandoned. The warranties will be honored and the dealers will take them under their wing.

All is well in Smartville tonight.

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