smart Brand to Launch in U.S. in 2006 With Unique SUV Model Global smart Line Grows to Six Models



    BOSTON, April 14 /PRNewswire/ -- smart, the global automotive brand that
 is revolutionizing the design, production and marketing of premium small
 vehicles around the world, will enter the U.S. market in 2006 with a new sport
 utility specifically designed for the American consumer.  Named the smart
 formore, the new smart utility vehicle will bring the brand's unique
 engineering, design and exuberant character into one of the market's most
 popular segments.
     A member of the Mercedes Car Group, smart is an entry-level premium car
 manufacturer that debuted in 1998 and offers six models in 31 markets.
 Starting in 2006, the smart formore will be built in the Mercedes-Benz plant
 in Juiz de Fora, Brazil. The plant has a capacity of 60,000 cars per year,
 half of which will be sold in the U.S. in a full sales year.  Currently, other
 smart models are built in the smartville complex in Hambach, France near the
 German border and at the NedCar facility in Born, Netherlands.
 
     From Zero to Six Models in Five Years
     Since the global brand launch in 1998, smart vehicles have been changing
 perceptions of what small vehicles can offer in terms of safety, performance
 and utility. Only six years after the launch of the first smart model, the
 city coupe, the brand now offers a line of six distinct models. With the
 arrival of the smart cabrio, crossblade, roadster and roadster-coupe models,
 smart grew from a single-product company to a multi-car manufacturer. The
 newest smart is also the brand's first four-door model, called the forfour,
 which began production in early 2004 at the NedCar facility and went on sale
 in many markets in April. New smart models are given names that have a direct
 connection to the uses of the vehicle.
 
     Art on Wheels
     The success of both the smart brand and the company is recognized
 throughout the global auto industry.  The eye-catching shape of the smart
 fortwo has secured its place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  To
 date, it is the only production vehicle to be displayed in a museum while
 still in production.
 
     A New Vehicle Concept
     The smart story began in April 1994 with the founding of a joint-venture
 company called Micro Compact Car AG by Mercedes-Benz AG and SMH, the maker of
 Swatch watches.  Daimler-Benz AG took over the Swatch Group's stake in
 November 1998, and the approximately 100 smart retail centers in Western
 Europe became part of the newly merged DaimlerChrysler organization in the
 following year.
 
     New Car, New Market, New Network
     The launch of the two-passenger smart fortwo in October 1998 marked the
 debut of the new brand and the birth of a radical new vehicle concept, as
 well. Only eight feet long, the smart fortwo helped to develop a previously
 non-existent market segment.  This ambitious launch also involved an
 innovative distribution network and an entirely new cooperative arrangement
 between manufacturer and suppliers.
 
     Welcome to smartville
     Based in Hambach, France near the German border, smartville is a unique
 manufacturing operation that features eleven different plants, many operated
 by suppliers.  To minimize transportation and storage, parts and pre-assembled
 sections are delivered less than 30 feet from the assembly line.  During
 assembly, each smart vehicle passes through 140 different stations in just 4
 1/2 hours.   The annual capacity of smartville stands at 120,000 for two
 coupes and cabrios, with about 2,000 (approximately 800 at smart France and
 1,200 at the local suppliers and system partners) employees working two
 shifts.  Across the Rhine River in Boblingen, Germany, a new corporate
 headquarters opened in early 2003 and now provides work space for nearly 1,400
 employees.
 
     Novel Product Concept
     The smart city coupe-now called the smart fortwo coupe -- was specially
 designed for use in large, crowded cities, and two of these innovative
 vehicles will fit crosswise in one conventional parking space.  The original
 city-coupe was available with a choice of two different gasoline engines.  A
 CDI diesel was added for 2000, along with the open-top smart fortwo cabrio.
 The smart diesel is the best-selling "three-liter" car in the world, a
 distinction used to describe cars that use less than four liters of fuel per
 100 kilometers, which translates to about 60 miles per gallon.
     In September 1999, smart unveiled a roadster concept at the Frankfurt Auto
 Show, followed by a concept for the smart roadster-coupe a year later at the
 Paris Show.  A smart crossblade show car appeared at the 2001 Geneva Show, and
 the reaction was so positive that all three models were approved for
 production.
 
     Solid Market Growth
     The trendsetting smart fortwo was originally launched in nine European
 countries, and three key markets were added in 2000 - Japan, the United
 Kingdom and Greece.  With continued market development, smart cars are now
 being sold in most European nations as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, South
 Africa, Israel, Australia and Mexico.
     The "smart k" model offered in Japan is exempt from the usual need to show
 proof of a parking space before purchase, and the car complies with Japanese
 regulations for "light vehicles," which mean lower tax and insurance rates
 than conventional cars.
 
     Global market growth has meant solid sales increases for smart every year:
 
      1998:    20,000
      1999:    80,000
      2000:    102,000
      2001:    116,000
      2002:    122,300
      2003:    124,700
 
     With the launch of the smart formore, the brand's first four-door model,
 sales are expected to increase again in 2004. Retail sales began with 100
 distribution points, and now smart vehicles are available from more than 700
 sales partners around the world, each with its own distinctive showroom.
     A wide range of photos and resources is available at
 http://media.smart.com including the smart logo; pictograms of all vehicles;
 cover of the first press kit; city-coupe (1998); crossblade (2002); and
 forfour (2003).
     smart (www.smart.com) is a premium small car manufacturer that is part of
 the Mercedes Car Group business unit of DaimlerChrysler.  Celebrating its
 sixth anniversary, smart is currently available in 31 markets, with global
 sales of 124,700 units in 2003.
     smart USA (a separate division within Mercedes-Benz USA) is based in
 Montvale, N.J. and is responsible for the U.S. sales and marketing of the
 brand.   smart will launch the formore, a new model designed specifically for
 this market, in 2006.
 
 

SOURCE smart USA

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