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During the blur of the Detroit Auto Show this week, we checked in with fresh Smart USA president Jill Lajdziak to see what the boss has to say about her new job, sales of the fortwo in the U.S. and what's up with the all-electric Smart Ed. Lajdziak only recently joined up with Penske Automotive and Smart after spending time as general manager at Saturn. She was named to the top post just last week.

Lajdziak's main message was that the Smart brand is just getting started in the U.S. Even though sales took a serious nosedive in late 2009, "The car has more potential than we are realizing," Lajdziak told AutoblogGreen. She cited the decrease in fuel prices as one reason for the drop in sales – adding that efficiency and/or miles per gallon won't be the main focus of the brand's 2010 advertising campaign. Instead, the lifestyle of the Smart car driver will be highlighted. "We need to make sure the marketing is as innovative as the car," she said.

What does that mean? Having a dealer footprint of just 77 stores allows Smart to do some creative things to get people's attention, like short-term stores in urban areas, Lajdziak said. But some drivers really want the most efficient Fortwo possible, and that means EV. Lajdziak said that some current Fortwo owners have contacting Smart to see if there is a waiting list to get an electric version. There isn't any such list, we were promised more information in the second quarter of 2010 (think New York Auto Show in late March/early April).

Even though Lajdziak has not yet driven the Smart Ed, she said that, "it's really a natural for electric technology to come to this brand and this car, and we certainly look forward to doing that later this year." Before the car makes its arrival here, Daimler engineers are working on a lot of enhancements following all of the test fleet programs and the early test drives that are providing feedback.

Back home, Smart USA will be getting people behind the wheel of a Fortwo through the Car2go car sharing program, coming soon to Austin, TX. Smart USA has not yet discussed putting any Smart Eds into the Car2go program, but we think pairing electric drive with car sharing is a pretty brilliant option for city dwellers.


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Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm with the above posters. A new transmission and an engine that actually gets the economy you'd expect from a car this small would also boost sales.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Beware the cute evil cars. They still rove in packs, but now they can climb and reach high places, to deny you any escape!
      • 5 Years Ago
      A proper design would also help to boost sales !

      I like the shape of the car, but not what it looks like.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have only one question for Ms Lajdziak: would you use this as your daily driver?

      When Allan Mulally first got the CEO job at Ford, he was driving a Lexus because, to him they were building the best cars for the money. He then proceeded to make sure Ford got the same quality as Lexus.

      This is why Lajdziak's job will be so hard: she has to sell something she wouldn't drive herself in a thousand year -- for the same reasons most Americans wouldn't.

      Good luck against the new Ford Fiesta.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You know what else might boost sales...?
      A reasonable engine choice which gets reasonable mileage for a small car and doesn't require premium fuel.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Omg, i had no idea it took premium fuel. For an engine of that size, it's a gas guzzler, lol.
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      You can't argue. They are absolutely 100% correct!
      m3laszlo
      • 5 Years Ago
      http://green.autoblog.com/2010/01/15/official-prediction-gas-will-hit-3-this-summer-in-u-s/

      My smart shielded me from $4.25 for premium in 2008 While you guys are still waiting for the more efficient 2011 models to come out and put smart to shame. My smart will shield me from 2010 summer's run up in prices too while you guys predict the fall of smart within two years? lol. FYI... my smart is ready for $6. Bring it. I'm ready NOW. I will be the 10% still left on the road. I know you won't.
        m3laszlo
        • 2 Months Ago
        @m3laszlo
        Hello My name is Joe Schmo I drive a Prius, Insight, Fit, Fiesta, Fusion Hybrid. I'm one of your so-called 10% who will still be driving when gas hits $6. and guess what , mr. notsosmartacus: I will STILL be getting better gas mileage and more cargo/passengers than your novelty-worn-off smart car with the unpopular transmission.

        -Howz that Front Wheel Drive treating you?
      mdcwave
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks like the novelty of the Smart is finally wearing off. This thing's just too heavy and under-motored, otherwise it would probably do ok. An EV Smart could change all that.
        • 2 Months Ago
        @mdcwave
        @Mike:
        1800 pounds is too heavy?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I give Smart less than 2 years before it closes its doors in the U.S. Why? - simple there are tons of new small cars coming out that are bigger, roomier, faster, MORE efficient with higher mileage than the Smarts and equal to or less than the sticker price of the Smart. The Smartcar is a "novelty" in the U.S. - cute, unusual styling BUT too expensive, horrible almost useless transmission, SLOW, poor mileage for such a tiny car and uses premium fuel - what's so Smart about that then? An EV model will be a natural progression but thats even more of a niche car. I think Smart should become a Zipcar and Car2go car sharing fleet car - that would be a "smart" idea and keep the brand going.
        • 5 Years Ago
        > The Smartcar is a "novelty" in the U.S.

        But the Smart car is a novelty in other countries as well. It's a "lifestyle" car, an accessory. It's not meant to compete with 4-seat supermini hatchbacks in terms of practicality.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Check out the promo video for this!
      http://vimeo.com/7971811


      It was done by local (Austin) Film/Design firm Sneaky Giants
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