Smart Brand Offers Leases

Leases are now available for Smart cars, presumably to jump start sales of those little imports. Smart USA Distributor LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Automotive Group Inc., is offering its first national lease program through Daimler Financial Services USA LLC. German auto maker Daimler AG imports the French-made A-segment Smarts to the U.S., where Roger Penske's firm has sole distribution rights. Penske

Leases are now available for Smart cars, presumably to jump start sales of those little imports.

Smart USA Distributor LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Automotive Group Inc., is offering its first national lease program through Daimler Financial Services USA LLC.

German auto maker Daimler AG imports the French-made A-segment Smarts to the U.S., where Roger Penske's firm has sole distribution rights.

Penske tells Ward's there has been no wholesale defection of dealers because of poor sales lately. He is confident of the brand's staying power in the U.S., which has not been a hot bed for micro cars.

Smart has been sold in the U.S. for two years. Deliveries dropped to 1,397 for the year's first quarter, compared with 4,937 in like-2009, according to Ward's data. More than 40,000 Smart ForTwo models have been sold in the U.S.

“Our new lease program allows customers added flexibility with financing options and allows Smart customers to enjoy leasing benefits such as low monthly payments, driving a new vehicle every two-to-three years and ease of vehicle turn-ins,” says Jill Lajdziak, President, Smart USA.

Strong residual values made it possible for Smart to offer leasing, she says. The new lease program is available for all new Smart models and will be offered in increments of 24, 36 and 48 months.

“We are offering a full menu of financial products designed specifically for the needs of Smart drivers and the Smart dealer network,” says Andreas Hinrichs, Daimler Financial's vice president-marketing.

“By launching this competitive leasing program, we are able to expand our current retail financing options and provide customers with another avenue.”

There are 77 Smart dealerships in 36 states.

Penske suggests that Daimler with Smart should emulate the way BMW AG markets its Mini-brand cars.

That would include creating derivatives to expand Smart offerings beyond the 2-door ForTwo model.

A revival of a 4-door Smart is under consideration for the U.S. market, says Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche.

Smart produced a 4-door model for the European market in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but ruled out a 4-door for the U.S. market when the 2-door models arrived in 2008.

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