Smart ForTwo Succeeds In Its First Year In America

I have to admit that I am partial to the Smart ForTwo: its cute and its also a convertible. I looove convertibles! Its also one of the newest cars on the American market. Ten years after its European debut, the two-seat, city car finally made it to the US. This was after several abortive tries by both its parent company Daimler and independent distributors. Currently Daimler is working with an American distributor organized by serial entrepreneur and race team owner Roger Penske to create SmartUSA.

SmartUSA president, David Schembri, spoke about the company's first year in the US market and where the company is going. When it started, SmartUSA set a target of 20,000 annual sales in America. Since this car is really a niche product, that relatively modest goal was probably smart. In retrospect, it was fairly conservative.

Smart sold its first US-spec ForTwo to a customer in Manhattan on January 16, 2008 and the 20,000th car was sold early in November "to a couple in their mid-fifties, empty-nesters," from Dallas, TX, as Schembri described them. Pretty good for a car that has received mixed reviews from both American media and prospective buyers.

Purchasing patterns show that the Smart is appeals to a wide demographic spectrum. Both young and old love the ForTwo. As Schembri explained, "we couldn't identify the target customer.Every time we would send out consumer polls or questionnaires, we quickly found out this wouldn't be a target demographic defined by age or income, but rather by attitude or lifestyle. The people were more defined by being thought leaders in their peer groups. The car had a chance to transcend not only generations but traditional buying segments."

"First time buyers would love the car because of the value of the vehicle, urban dwellers because of its obvious urban applicability, empty nesters because they don't need a car for four, five or six people anymore."

According to the sales pattern this has turned out to be true. Schembri says that this demographic pattern is similar to the European demographic. America is now the third largest market for the ForTwo, with Italy and Germany up front.

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