Mercedes will try to resuscitate Smart with new execs, ads, incentives

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2009 Smart ForTwo – Click above for high-res image gallery

The Smart brand has been in flux for the last few years. Sales have fallen off a cliff from the days when the Penske Group moved nearly 25,000 units in 2008. In 2010, just 5,927 Smart ForTwos went home with new owners. Mercedes-Benz had enough of watching sales submarine, and plucked back distribution rights, sales and marketing of the brand. Now, the German automaker is looking to inject new life into Smart.

How does Mercedes hope to revive the ailing subcompact brand? For starters, Smart has a new executive team in place, which forms a new group called Daimler Vehicle Innovations USA. This group reports directly to Mercedes-Benz USA sales leader Michael Slagter. The newly formed Smart team is lead by Tracey Matura, who was plucked from her role as general manager of MB's strategic retail development group.

Matura will work with Mercedes-Benz dealers to incorporate Smart vehicles into their showrooms. In the past, it was required of a Smart dealer to utilize a separate, or even standalone, showroom space. Now, Matura will simply ask for a corner of an existing Benz showroom, and, given the size of a Smart ForTwo, the corner doesn't need to be very big.

Right now, 75 Mercedes dealerships also sell Smart products, and Matura aims to get that number up to 100 by year's end. Read all about the new Smart plan after the break.
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Mercedes-Benz USA Announces Smart Team

MONTVALE, N.J., July 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) today announced appointments within a dedicated team that will be responsible for the sales, marketing and distribution of smart products in the United States. MBUSA took over responsibility for sales of the two-seater coupes and cabriolets from the Penske organization on July 1, 2011.

Heading up the smart team as general manager will be Tracey Matura. Matura is responsible for the brand's distribution, sales and marketing activities, reporting to Michael Slagter, vice president of sales for MBUSA. She has worked for MBUSA for 16 years, predominantly in the legal and retail areas, most recently as general manager of strategic retail development where she was responsible for the MBUSA dealer network. She was ranked one of the "100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry" by Automotive News this year.

Matura and her team will be part of a new subsidiary of MBUSA called Daimler Vehicle Innovations USA LLC. Positions reporting directly to Matura include:

-Julia Knittel as manager, smart marketing and brand management. Knittel, who has worked for MBUSA since 2002 in such areas as learning & performance and consumer events & sports marketing, was also communications manager for the smart brand when MBUSA originally introduced the brand to the U.S. in 2004. In her new post, Knittel will be responsible for developing and implementing strategic communication platforms for smart products and the brand in the U.S. including traditional marketing, experiential marketing, partnerships, social and digital media.

-Sean Lyons as manager, smart sales and aftersales. Lyons comes to smart from Lexus where he held management positions for 11 years in regional sales operations, preowned and marketing, and most recently, vehicle field sales. As part of the smart team, Lyons will be responsible for managing sales and aftersales activities including overseeing a team of six field operations managers.

-Deirdre O'Grady as smart dealer network lead. O'Grady brings to her new position nine years of retail experience at Infiniti, in such positions as regional distribution manager, market manager, and dealer parts & service manager. She also worked in sales operations, market representation, marketing and consumer affairs. On the smart team, O'Grady will be responsible for the strategic development and support of the smart franchise network which currently consists of 75 dealerships across the United States.

The distinctive smart product line consists of four models in the U.S.: the gasoline-powered smart fortwo in coupe (in "pure" or "passion" configuration) and cabriolet bodystyles as well as an all-electric version of the smart fortwo coupe. Over 47,000 smarts have been sold in the U.S. to date.

smart fortwo Information

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