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Daimler's Smart Car Sales Defy Global Financial Downturn

Carmaker Daimler's miniature Smart car has had success in the difficult US market, with more models sold there than any other country apart from Germany and Italy.

A Smart car

Daimler's Smart car been a hit in the US

Roger Penske, the head of the Penske Group, a Detroit-based dealership chain that has partnered with German auto company Daimler to distribute Smart cars, said the figures were surprising considering sales "didn't really get started until February (2008)."

Daimler said it had expected to sell around 16,000 units of the French-made two-seater, but that this figure was bettered by more than 8,000 additional vehicle sales.

The new Smart even seems to have defied current auto sales trends in the US, which have been in freefall since the credit crunch took hold. There is a six-month waiting list for the Smart.

But he warned that high sales in 2008 did not necessarily signal similarly high sales in 2009.

Penske said that 55 percent of prospects who placed a $99 Internet deposit to reserve a Smart car had eventually gone through with purchasing one of the vehicles.

"We're being very, very conservative," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.

"We would be happy to stay even and just do what we did in 2008," added David Schembri, president of Smart USA.

The deepening recession in the US pushed car sales down 18 percent in the most precipitous decline in 29 years and the lowest levels since 1992.

US car sales have been predicted to fall in 2009 by as much as three million units to around 11 million vehicles.

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