Look smart. Mercedes-Benz is bringing its Smart cross/utility vehicle to North America, says Paul Halata, president of Mercedes-Benz USA.
Mercedes is setting up a new franchise to sell the vehicle, a larger one than the current mini Smart 2-seater currently sold in Europe. The 4-door Smart CUV is designed to compete in the same segment as BMW's Mini, a brand launched in 2002.
Halata appointed Scott Keogh, current Mercedes public relations chief, to be general manager of the Smart division. Keogh will report to David Schembri, a marketing vice president who will continue to oversee sales of pre-owned Mercedes.
The Smart CUV is slated to debut in the fall of 2006. Keogh says 50-60 dealers will be drawn from the Mercedes retail ranks to sell the Smart CUV and other models planned for the brand.
Mercedes is targeting sales of 25,000-30,000 Smart CUVs in a full calendar year, Keogh says. “We'll be aggressive in bringing out additional models.”
Eventual volume for the Smart franchise is forecast at 50,000-60,000 units per year. The Smart CUV will be built on a new chassis. Keogh predicts the price at less than $25,000.
Halata says two additional sport/utility vehicles for the Mercedes brand will debut about the same time, one bigger, one smaller than the current M-Class.
Mercedes' most aggressive incentives are on the M-Class. They're necessary, says Halata, because the model is 7 years old.