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|smart USA Recaps Its First Year at LA Auto Show|
Innovative Vehicle Achieves Resounding Success
LOS ANGELES, Nov 20, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) --
smart USA Distributor LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Automotive Group, Inc., (NYSE: PAG), today recapped the first ten months of business as the company approaches its one year anniversary in the United States, sharing insight into the vehicle's overwhelming success, during the LA Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The presentation was part of smart USA's press conference that introduced the 2009 smart fortwo BRABUS, a limited production model available exclusively to existing smart USA reservation holders in early 2009.
"The key to smart USA's success has been entering the market with the right car at the right time," said Dave Schembri, President, smart USA. "Consumers throughout the United States have enthusiastically embraced the smart fortwo as well as the concept of the micro-car. The fortwo now has become part of the landscape of America's highways."
Strong Sales in First Year
The smart fortwo experienced a robust first year of sales in the United States, crossing the landmark 20,000 sales milestone in October -- just nine months after going on sale. As the 37th country to sell the smart fortwo in the world, the United States has already become the third highestsales marketofthesmartfortwo, trailing only Germany and Italy. The smart fortwo brand has been in existence for 10 years globally.
"The smart fortwo quickly has become a preferred vehicle solution for many American consumers, demonstrating that the micro-car is not a fad, but is clearly a trend," said Schembri.
Establishing the Dealer Retail Network
smart USA opened over 70 "smart center" retail outlets in 35 states across the country this year. In addition to placing retail outlets in major cities to reach consumers desiring urban mobility, the company has also located smart centers in cities like Omaha, Nebraska, and Jackson, Mississippi, due to high customer demand and acceptance in those areas.
Green Success Story
The smart fortwo has been a green product success story this year, demonstrating that a vehicle can be fun and functional yet also environmentally responsible. The smart fortwo was recently ranked as the most fuel efficient, non-hybrid vehicle in the United States by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2009 Fuel Economy Guide. The guide places the smart fortwo as fifth overall in the ranking for fuel efficiency.
Additionally, the vehicle is classified as an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). It is also certified by the EPA as a "Smartway" vehicle, which indicates good environmental performance and placing it among the "greenest" vehicles in the market. Finally, the smart fortwo was one of five finalists in this year's "Green Car of the Year" Award announced at the LA Auto Show.
Unique Marketing/Retail Approach -- Online and Hands On
smart USA has taken a unique approach in marketing and retailing the vehicle in the U.S. market. From the start the business model challenged conventional wisdom of how cars are marketed and sold in the United States. In addition, smart had to deliver on the brand promise of offering an unconventional transportation solution to urban congestion and environmental issues.
Nearly a year before the sales launch of the smart fortwo, an online reservation system was created for interested consumers to take the first step in the ownership process by reserving a production model for $99. This system allowed smart USA to gauge preliminary vehicle demand, the ratio of trim and color preferences, and the location of the customer base. The reservation system continues to manage the enormous vehicle demand, and placing a reservation is the only way a customer can guarantee an opportunity to purchase a vehicle.
smart USA also generated widespread excitement about the brand by educating consumers through hands-on experiences. Unlike other new vehicle launches, smart USA has not used traditional advertising, relying instead on grassroots efforts like cross-country road shows and word-of-mouth advocacy to communicate the brand's attributes and drive vehicle reservations. smart USA partnered with like-minded brands such as Club Monaco during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, held special events such as an Earth Day celebration in Manhattan and has established a presence at Art Basel, an exclusive art show in Miami Beach, highlighting culture and art.
Connecting with Customers
smart USA's approach has always been to connect with customers before and after the sale. A key tool has been www.smartusainsider.com, a social networking Web site, for smart fortwo owners, vehicle reservation holders and enthusiasts to stay connected to the brand and each other. Since the site's launch in June, nearly 8,000 members regularly share their favorite smart fortwo photos, videos and stories with fellow members.
The company also communicates regularly with reservation holders who are anxiously awaiting delivery of their smart fortwo. For those patiently waiting, the "Worth the Wait" program was created to engage reservation holders with communications designed to give them up to date information about smart.
Shortly after a customer takes delivery of their smart fortwo, the customer is thanked with an "Emergency Roadside Kit" which consists of gift cards to Starbucks, ExxonMobil and Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
Entering the Aftermarket -- The smart fortwo BRABUS
The smart fortwo BRABUS and the availability of BRABUS accessories will help take the smart brand to a new level. This limited production model is the first U.S. vehicle offering from a partnership between smart and German tuning specialist BRABUS. The BRABUS model offers consumers enhanced exterior and interior design elements and a sports suspension.
smart fortwo owners can choose to customize their vehicles with the new line of BRABUS accessories for sale and installation at smart centers across the country. This is smart USA's first formal venture into the vehicle aftermarket.
The Road Ahead
In addition to the BRABUS edition in the United States, Daimler is currently testing future technology in other parts of the world. A fleet of 100 electric smart fortwos are being tested in London, England.
"smart USA has had a very successful first year in the American car market, and we are extremely excited about the future and our plans to evolve the brand and expand product offerings," said Schembri. "With the refreshed 2009 smart fortwo just beginning to arrive at dealerships and the 2009 smart fortwo BRABUS arriving early next year, smart USA anticipates the momentum of the smart brand to keep accelerating."
ABOUT the smart fortwo and smart USA
smart USA Distributor LLC, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is the exclusive distributor of the smart fortwo in the United States and Puerto Rico and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Penske Automotive Group, Inc. The smart fortwo is a brand of and is manufactured by Daimler AG. This technologically advanced vehicle achieves 41 mpg on the highway and is an ultra-low emissions vehicle, as certified by the State of California Air Resources Board. The vehicle is 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet tall and 5.1 feet wide and comes equipped with many functional and safety features found in most luxury models. smart is currently sold in 36 other countries, and more than one million smart fortwos have been sold since 1998. The 2009 smart fortwo is available in three trim levels ranging in price from $11,990* to $16,990*. For more information visit the smart USA website -- www.smartusa.com.
* For 2009 models.Excludes tax, title, registration, destination charge, options and other dealer fees.
smart is a registered trademark of Daimler AG.
ABOUT PENSKE AUTOMOTIVE GROUP
Penske Automotive Group, Inc., headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., operates 306 retail automotive franchises, representing more than 40 different brands, and 25 collision repair centers. Penske Automotive Group, which sells new and previously owned vehicles, finance and insurance products and replacement parts, and offers maintenance and repair services on all brands it represents, has 159 franchises in 19 states and Puerto Rico and 147 franchises located outside the United States, primarily in the United Kingdom. Penske Automotive Group is a member of the Fortune 500 and Russell 1,000 and has approximately 15,000 employees.
SOURCE: smart USA Distributor LLC
For smart USA
Copyright Business Wire 2008
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