Mr. Schembri, President of Smart USA, speaking on behalf of his company and the Smart car, told Associated Press. "A year ago, there was not one dealer, not one customer, no cars in the U.S. and relatively low awareness." We give credit to Mr. Schembri and his entire group for all their hard work and their commitment. However, we've found some errors in his statement that should be addressed. Saying "there was not one dealer" could be considered accurate, depending on your point of view.
It's true, there were no "authorized smart USA dealers" in the U.S., till recently, once the Penske Group initiated their Smart dealership network and only after Mr. Zetsche, CEO of Daimler and head of Mercedes, announced that the Smart would enter the U.S. market and that UAG, now PAG, would be the exclusive distributor and responsible for developing and maintaining a Smart car dealership network throughout the U.S.
Other aspects of his statement are a little wide of the mark, in particular his perception about "relatively low awareness."
Smart Car of America has educated tens of thousands of North American Smart devotees about this unique car. The site has had literally millions of visitors and hundreds of thousands of requests for information concerning the Smart. We've attempted to answer as many questions as possible, and helped keep the American public informed, when no one else would!
We didn't invent the Internet, but as North America's longest-running independent web site dedicated to Smart car "awareness" and the first in North America to the Internet with the Smart's crusade, the assertion of "relatively low awareness" is not accurate and rather self serving.
Why, if the awareness factor was so insufficient would a publicly traded company, with the brain power of Penske, having a responsibility to share holders, in a down market, entertain such a venture?
The subsequent contention of "not one customer" is difficult to deal with.
Zap a California Company, who had advocated the U.S. importation of the Smart car as far back as 2003, ordered a significant number of cars, 76,500 of them to be precise, directly from smart GmbH. Zap, also had thousands of cars reserved by clients, demonstrating perhaps a few customers.
The sheer number of reservations and Canada's success demonstrates there were clients, just a lack of cars!
So to say, there was "not one customer" is flawed.
We came across this article and found it intriguing; Zap CEO Steve Schneider said in an interview back in 2006 that "United Auto (PAG) was getting its cars through Zap before it landed the distribution deal with DaimlerChrysler. Schneider continued "How they ended (authorized importer deal) up with it, I wasn't privy to that."
Zap has since filed a law suit against Daimler, which Daimler has called unfounded.
Finally, as for the claim "no cars in the U.S" someone must have forgot about the memorandum concerning the "Gray Market" Smart cars.
Smart USA sent a FAQ memorandum to all their Smart center dealers and one of the questions on their memo involved the gray market Smarts.
The memo said "How should I handle gray market vehicles?" Smart USA's answer was…"smart USA is currently working with smart Gmbh to determine policy and that smart USA will communicate the policy to dealers."
Zap delivered some 500 Smart Cars to their dealers and, G&K Automotive Conversion, through Defiance Motors, sold thousands of 2004, 2005 and 2006 model years of the Smart. In states such as Washington, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri and Florida, and many others via dealers like Prestige Motors, Scott Hawkins, I-5 Motors, Foreign Affairs Auto, Mountain View Motors, and Green Car Company.
Granted, not smart USA's authorized dealers but dealers none the less!
To say publicly there are no Smart cars in the U.S. is wrong.
So possibly, once all the smoke settles, the hype passes and everyone who wants a Smart is driving one, all the groups connected with the Smart project can take some credit and some responsibility?