• Jan 5th 2010 at 1:55PM
  • 13
Just a few weeks ago, former Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak was hired by Penske Automotive to head sales and marketing for its Smart USA operations. Now Lajdziak will take over the entire operation as the new president of Smart USA, replacing Dave Schembri, who held the post since its inception.
In the past several months, sales of the Smart Fortwo have collapsed in the U.S. with November down 65 percent. Lajdziak will have to find a way to convince buyers that a tiny but not inexpensive car with so-so fuel economy and a horrible transmission is a good idea. Tilting at windmills is nothing new for Lajdziak; she worked at Saturn throughout its entire nearly twenty-year run. Revamping the sales network will apparently be a big part of her job, since a new version of the Fortwo is not on the immediate horizon. The press release is after the jump.

[Source: Smart USA]

PRESS RELEASE

Penske Automotive Announces Management Changes at smart USA
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI,

January 4, 2010 – Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE:PAG), an international automotive retailer and exclusive distributor of the smart fortwo through its wholly-owned subsidiary smart USA Distributor LLC ("smart USA"), announced today that Jill Lajdziak has been named President of smart USA. In this role, Lajdziak will assume day to day operations for the smart brand in the United States. Lajdziak has over 30 years of progressive automotive experience, including expertise in brand development, product marketing and customer satisfaction. Penske Automotive Group Chairman Roger Penske said, "As we look to enhance the position of the smart brand, Jill's background and experience will help us reinvigorate the dealer network and bring a greater awareness to the smart brand." Previously, smart USA was managed by Dave Schembri. Schembri will transition into Penske Automotive Group's retail operations. Penske continued, "I would like to thank Dave for his efforts over the last three and a half years with smart USA. His contributions were instrumental in helping us bring smart to the United States."

About Penske Automotive

Penske Automotive Group, Inc., (www.penskeautomotive.com) headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, operates 310 retail automotive franchises, representing 40 different brands and 25 collision repair centers. Penske Automotive, 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 160 franchises in 17 states and Puerto Rico and 150 franchises located outside the United States, primarily in the United Kingdom. Penske Automotive, through its wholly-owned subsidiary smart USA Distributor LLC (www.smartusa.com), is the exclusive distributor of the smart f
ortwo vehicle and related parts in the United States. smart USA supports over 75 smart retail centers in the United States. Penske Automotive is a member of the Fortune 500 and Russell 1000 and has approximately 14,000 employees. smart and fortwo are registered trademarks of Daimler AG.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      They simply need to make the car a lot better. The main reasons to buy it are practical, and it doesn't even deliver on those (2 seater, mediocre gas mileage) and then there's the awful transmission...

      They have to improve the value proposition, either make it a lot cheaper or fair bit better. I expect they won't be able to deliver on either of these enough.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Want to save the brand? sell a car that doesn't suck in pretty much every aspect.
      Your welcome.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I suppose giving us this thing with average fuel economy (and needing high-test to boot) and losing most all of its appeal for a good portion of the market might have something to do with it.
      Also the crap-tastic transmission.
      Super small is a huge selling point for lots of people in cities....
      But that engine choice was just insane no matter who they were trying to sell it to on practical grounds.
      BipDBo
      • 5 Years Ago
      If someone wants a car with great gas millage, they are not going to drive this piece of crap at 41 MPG when a cheap Ford focus gets 35 MPG and there are hybrid and diesel cars by verious manufacturers that get much higher MPGs. The new Miata is projected to get near 50 MPG.

      The Smart is popular in Europe for two reasons: 1) They tax based on engine displacement. 2) General parking rules are ignored there and most times a Smart is the only car that can find a spot.

      Smaller is not neccessarily less efficient (just look at the guy who duct-taped a boat-tail to his Metro). Smaller is definately not better, at least in the USA. This car enjoyed a brief novelty stage here, but that is over now.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder how much someone gets paid to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?

      p.s. I'd buy a smart TODAY if it had a manual and a diesel.
      • 5 Years Ago
      She has her hands full now that the novelty has worn off these cars. I wanted to like these cars but the execution is awful. One of the worse driving modern cars I have ever driven. My suggestion is to add a diesel, and coventional automatic and manual transmissions. At least this way the gas mileage will be significantly better and make for a more compelling vehicle.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Completely agree. The final specs on the U.S. model are/were very disappointing. 33/41 EPA ratings? Really? Let's see, a Golf or Jetta TDI that actually has some practicality, comfort and performance gets about the same mileage. Here would be my recommendations for Smart.

        1) Fast-track rollout of the micro-hybrid drive for the U.S. models. This will incrementally increase fuel economy and performance.

        2) Increase R&D and speed up timeline on electric models. I think this is the one area where Smart could be a hit. However, for the U.S. market, a minimum top speed of 80 mph is probably a necessity. Target 100-mile range.

        3) Offer a full automatic transmission (either dual-clutch, CVT, or conventional) that doesn't shift like a schoolyard bully slapping you in the back of the neck.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Americans, as a whole, do not like and will not buy tiny cars.

      The push for austerity will fail with the public.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Polo

        Wrong. 2008 was a dismal year, yes. However, the Ford F-series and the Chevy Silverado were still the best and second-best selling vehicles in the US.

        The Camry was 3rd, and it's definitely not a small car. Neither is the Accord, which was 4th.

        http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/daily-news/090107-The-Ten-Best-Selling-Vehicles-of-2008/

        Out of the ten best selling cars of 2008, only two might be considered "small". Even then, only by US standards - in Europe and Asian markets the Corolla and Civics would be considered average family-sized... the rest of the list includes an SUV and another full-size pick-up. Large cars still sold quite well in 2008, no doubt about it.

        Aside from the Smart, which has been a dismal failure, we have yet to see any truly (world-recognized) small cars here in the US.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Americans WILL buy small cars - but - the car must be FUN TO DRIVE, AFFORDABLE AND PERSONALIZED , AND CHEAP TO MAINTAIN.

        Need proof? Over 21 million VW Beetles sold - embraced by the "think small" campaign and the Earth Day- Granola - Peace - Love -Dove generation !

        Oh, and don't forget the successor to the Beetle: the Honda Civic - again, fun, affordble, personalized (you can get engine and body mods for any Civic from '73 to the present), and of course cheap! All with 30 miles per gallon.

        Solution for Smart: a fun campaign (such as MINI), combined with better handling, engine mods, better gas mileage (the Smart diesel) and competitive pricing.

        Of course, if the price of gas went to $4 a gallon, it wouldn't hurt!
        • 5 Years Ago
        During the gas price shock back in '08 small cars were the only thing selling. If you believe the financial journals and speculators gas prices will surpass their '08 prices easily by 2012-2015. The market is and continues to trend in favor of smaller, more efficient cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So instead of upping their engineering, they have chosen to put a marketing genius in there to trick us in to buying their crap. I guess they haven't learned their lesson about long term brand value.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My biggest gripe is the lack of dealerships. Here in AZ we have only one in the whole friggin' state, Phoenix. I live 120 miles away in Tucson, a city with over a million residents, and there isn't even a satellite service center here. Local owners I have talked to say getting proper warranty service is the biggest headache. I really enjoy seeing them for the weird factor. A lot of folks buy a car simply because they like it, or it makes them look back at it and smile when they walk away from it. I would bet most of these cars were bought as toys, hardly as a serious means of transportation. If you really like it for what it is, the crappy transmission and the outrageous price are just part of admission. By the way, the same goes for the Mini. Overpriced, and only one dealer in the whole state, Phoenix. Oh, that's right, there is going to be a second dealer soon. Phoenix.
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