Currently 69 official smart centers have opened their doors in 31 states and are closing in on the 10,000 Smart unit’s sales mark. To date 8,854 Smart Cars have been sold. The Smart is appealing to a tremendous number of U.S. buyers. No big surprise to Smart Car of America.
Something that also isn’t surprising is Daimler AG, the German parent corporation of smart GmbH, the maker of the Smart, has cautioned Lionhead Motors of Dallas, Texas that it is not authorized to continue selling the highly popular mini-cars.
Last year, smart USA and the Penske Group approved a franchise for their Smart cars to Park Place Dealerships, which opened Smart Center Dallas in January. According to Ken Schnitzer, chairman of the group, "the car has become one of Park Place Dealerships' hottest-selling vehicles" and also added "We have one year's worth of orders now."
Lionhead bought its inventory of Smart cars from secondary distributors, so the cars aren't under warranty because they are not U.S.-market vehicles and are licensed as legal "gray-market " vehicles.
Lionhead's attraction was that the Smart cars on its lot were promptly available - as opposed to a 12 month wait from a franchised smart center dealer.
The Smart Center Dallas when asked about Lionhead’s status told customers of Lionhead that the Smarts had no factory warranties and that they would need to take them back to Lionhead for any work.
Lionhead Motors which has said that it began selling imported Smart cars last fall may not even have the proper licensing for the state of Texas to even sell cars. They (Lionhead) filed for a used car license back in March, but the application is still pending.
The Lionhead's showroom was not opened on Friday. No cars were parked on the property, and paper covered all the showroom windows.
Dozens of the cars may have been sold at prices twice the U.S. model's $11,590 base price.
Mr. Riccubuono and Mr. Ford, the owners of Lionhead, told the Fort Worth Business Press in March that they offered 2005 and 2006 Smart cars for $24,000 to $31,000 and were selling 10 to 15 cars a month.
They said the cars were excess inventory from European dealers that they bought through a California importer.
This could only mean Lionhead purchased remaining inventory that G&K importer had modified to meet “gray market” standards for the converted Smart's.
Daimler AG is a little late. Some 4000 of these “gray market” Smart cars are already on our roads.
These are the very same Smarts that Zap had planned to sell to U.S. clients, before their deal with G&K importer and others went upside down!