Now that smart is a lock for the US market, let's get into the details. In an interview with MSNBC, Roger Penske responded to the pricing question by saying that smart is committed to having an entry level model priced below $15,000. You can watch the video by clicking on this link. I was hoping for a sub $13,000 launch, but deep down I realized that given the high costs of manufacture and unfavorable exchange rates, it wasn't going to happen.
I think that there will be strong initial demand from customers eager for European flavor. However, what happens when that demand has been satisfied? Smart's press release mentioned that there will be three models of the fortwo. Certainly there will be the coupe and convertible, but is the third model just a trim variation? Could the rumored hybrid model be ready by 2008? The only other variation that I can think of would be production version of the crosstown concept.
The inital network of dealers will be comprised of 30 to 50 dealerships. United Auto will start evaluating interested dealerships and making arrangements over the course of the next year and half.
I respect Roger Penske and I wish him success in this endeavor. The only Penske business miscue that I can think of was Penske Auto Centers located in K-Marts. It cost Roger a pretty penny to get out of that fiasco. My only slight concern is that the smart chain will be run by Dave Schembri who was initially tapped to run smart USA along with Scott Keogh back when it was going to be distributed by Mercedes dealers. After smart bailed on the USA, Keogh moved on to focus on Mercedes (and just recently moved to Audi) while Schembri moved to Mitsubishi to head up sales and marketing. Dave's move obviously didn't work out too well and Schembri was once again on the streets. Penske quickly scooped up Dave and put him to work on the smart project. I know that folks in the business move around, but I wonder if Schembri has what it takes?
California Autos Examiner
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Posted by Michael Sheena at 7:28 PM