It was a dreary, rainy, and a very cold Friday afternoon at Riverside, California. I had cancelled an earlier 12:30 appointment to finally testdrive for the first time a smart car at the Riverside smart Center. I felt so bad cancelling the appointment that it left a feeling of emptiness inside of me. I tried to divert my attention and tried to fill the void that I felt by surfing the SCOA site, reading stories about other fellow members finally receiving their much long awaited ride, and stories of other people still waiting to take home their very own smart toy. Then all of a sudden an idea came up to me and I asked myself, why not call the manager of that smart center and do an exclusive interview that I could share to my fellow SmartCar of America forum members. So I went ahead and called John Gaddis, sales manager of smart center Riverside, who was very gracious enough to agree to be interviewed on the spot. I introduced myself as a smart car insider that had made the blind leap to a $99 reservation, and a member of this rapidly growing 11,000 strong SmartCar of America forum enthusiast. I asked him a series of questions that ranged from the number of promised deliveries for the year 08, to the issue of the orphans. Throughout the whole interview he offered a rare insight that only a sales manager of a smart center can give, of which he was kind enough to share to a total stranger like me. Below were a series of questions that I asked him.
Since opening day how many smart cars have you delivered?
John Gaddis (JG): Counting from opening day 1/18/08 to the present time (2/22/08), we have delivered about 3 dozens of smart cars to the owners and I am expecting to deliver about 30 more before the end of this month (February). In fact I am expecting 30 more to arrive this coming week and I have notified the following people that those cars belong to.
How many cars are you expecting to receive this year 2008?
JG: I was told that I would receive about 420 cars this year alone.
Are you aware of the number of reservations that is covered by your dealership and also what areas or counties are assigned to your smart center?
JG: I believed that I have about 600 people that made reservations that lives around this smart center's jurisdiction which covers Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial county. This makes the smart center of Riverside with the largest area of jurisdiction coverage in terms of square miles compared among the other dealerships in Southern California.
Is'nt Las Vegas part of your coverage also?
It is part of our area of coverage until that dealership opens up around June of this year.
How far are you now in terms of deliveries to the reservees? As you may know in this forum we go by the last 4 digits of their reservation no. to identify your place in line i.e. 1173 as the first day of reservation.
JG: As of today, I believe it is 1181. And I will continue to receive more deliveries, and believe me they come in bunches. But no worries I got a lot of room available for them.
How much so far is your fallout rate (rate of dropouts among reservees)?
JG: So far we have averaged about %20.
How do you handle the disbursement of your orphans?
JG: Here we have a different term for them and we call them the fallouts.
I have about 100 + people on my waiting list and I call them in order to see if they wanted to take home one, which so far had no problem getting rid of them.
Why don't you offer it (orphans) to those people that made reservations that started last year and go by their dates of reservation? Is'nt that a fair way to handle those orphans or fallouts as you call them?
JG: That is just a lot of work for me and I have enough work to do already. And besides this center is part of the Mercedes, Porsche group of dealerships in which we have repeat customers that have bought 2 or 3 Porches in the past who also would want to get a hold of this cars as either a gift to someone close to them and we sell it to them to reward them of their loyalty. Would you not do the same?
A lot of members in our forum are questioning the length of the covered warranty and the differing cost of the extended warranty. Why does smart only offer a 2 year/24k warranty? Is smart questioning the reliability and durability of the car, or is it also a way to lower cost?
JG: It is not because the reliability is in doubt, and we do believe that this is a dependable and durable car. The engine alone is built by an aircraft engine manufacturer, which if you were to imagine the amount of stress that it could withstand while in high altitudes (aircraft engine). So that is why Mercedes went with someone that has an excellent reputation in building engines. I believe cost is the major factor in this, and we try to make it affordable to everyone, which is represented by the price range of the pure alone ($11,590 base price). I also believe that most people who would buy this car would have this as their 3rd car and probably not put a lot of miles on it. We also offer affordable extended warranties like a 5yr/60k miles for $995, 5yr/75k miles for $1195 and 5yr/100k for $1595. There is a $100 deductible for every occurence, which we believe is competitive enough.
How reliable is your communication with Smart1 at the moment? Are you satisfied with the amount of information you are getting from them? This to us is part of our frustration with smart USA, we always get a canned response and offered the same line of answers.
JG: What we get from them is how much cars are coming from the boat and the list of poeple getting them. And as soon as we get them, we call the people that those cars belong to. That is as far as we could get with regards to information from smart1.
How about my car John, is it part of your next delivery yet? I am waiting for a Black/Silver cell passion car and made reservation April '07.
JG: Did we call you yet? If not it is probably on the next boat.
John, thanks for the interview and would it be okay if I call you again in the future and do another interview?
JG: By all means Reggie, Im available anytime for you.
There you have it guys and gals. An insight from a manager of a smart Center in Riverside California. Hopefully I could get Dave Schembri in the future for an interview just like this one. ;)
Again my wholehearted thanks to John Gaddis, who was kind and gracious enough to grant me this impromptu interview. If you want to come visit him at his smart center, it is located at 8505 Indiana Avenue, Riverside, California (951.688.3332).
P.s. Above pictures were taken at the smart center Riverside a week before this interview took place