In the year's first quarter, sales of Daimler AG's A-segment cars in the Smart product lineup were dismal but Roger Penske, chief of Penkse Automotive Group's Smart USA. Distributor LLC, said that he remains motivated.
While Penske disclosed that his dealers continue to be confident about the brand's future, he believes that Daimler would have to try to be like BMW AG's Mini brand in evolving a market plan that comes up with derivatives to expand the Smart product portfolio.
Penske says that Ward's Daimler has the right to buy back a 50% share of the exclusive Smart distribution operation after five years.
Penske said that he'd be happy to sell it to them. However, Penske doesn´t appear eager to abandon his exclusive arrangement.
Daimler has yet to confirm this arrangement. Daimler's spokeswoman said that the details of the exclusive contract's duration and maturity are confidential because they only concern the contractual partners. Smart sales dropped to 1,397 for the year's first quarter, compared with 4,937 units in 2009, according to Ward's data.
Still, Penske insists dealers have not defected and that he confident about the staying power of the Smart brand in the US. Penske declined to talk about the derivates of the additional models expected to be added to the Smart portfolio.
Earlier this week, Daimler signed a deal with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. to work together on future small cars, including next-generation Smarts due in 2013.