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DaimlerChrysler Plans to Boost Smart Car Distribution

The car giant plans to significantly strengthen the European marketing and distribution of its small Smart car by spring 2004. But its dealerships might not be willing to make the necessary investment.


DaimlerChrysler's smart car has fans in the police department as well

Car maker DaimlerChrysler AG plans to significantly strengthen the European marketing and distribution of its small Smart cars by spring 2004, by which time it expects to have completed the forthcoming extension of the model.

In Germany alone, the number of Smart-Centers are to rise to 110 from 41, and the number of repair workshops to 220 from 109, Ulrich Fromme, spokesman for DaimlerChrysler’s Smart distribution in Germany told Handelsblatt.

Fromme declined to comment on the kind of investment the move will require. He said the group had started talks with the dealerships to negotiate the level of investment they are prepared to make.

He estimated that the expansion plans would require a total sum running into three-digit millions of euros.

“The expansion of the distribution network is to be completed in time for the launch of the four-seater Smart in April 2004,” people close to DaimlerChrysler distribution said.

DaimlerChrysler subsidiary MCC Smart will expand its product range from spring next year. Ahead of the launch of the four-seater model, a Roadster is due to come on the market. But it still remains to be seen to what extent the dealerships are willing to meet the ambitious demands of DaimlerChrysler.

The marketing division has held talks with around one third of all its dealerships so far and the meetings were described as “harmonious”. But there are some who have reportedly expressed reservations about the marketability of the four-seater model.

Furthermore, dealerships are still facing uncertainty as a result of the European Union’s planned reform of an exemption that allows car makers to sell their new vehicles through an exlusive network of hand-picked dealerships. The exemption is scheduled to come to an end by autumn this year, though the European Commission has yet to draw up the new guidelines.