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Smart move from DaimlerChrysler

Smart is to simplify its model line-up and reduce the amount of investment required by dealers to take on the franchise as a standalone outlet under a radical new business plan in the UK.

Dealers will now be required to have a three-car showroom, instead of the previous six-car, as Smart aims to increase its representation and fill open points.

It currently has 56 dealers and is aiming for 73 by 2007. Bids are being considered from non-Mercedes-Benz franchised retailers for the first time.

“We are putting a new foundation in place for retailers which will open up opportunities for us where they were closed before,” says Jeremy Simpson, head of Smart in the UK and Ireland. “We want to reduce costs for dealers. This means a more efficient stocking system and less outlay on bricks and mortar. We want them to view Smart as a car business in its own right.”

The carmaker is streamlining its model line-up to make it an easier franchise for dealers to understand and a simpler proposition for customers. The entry level purestyle ForFour now has six options, compared to the 57 previously available.

“This is a viable margin model which gives dealers a chance to earn a return on investment. Our dealers are getting to grips with the Smart brand and we want this to continue,” says Simpson.

Smart wants to be perceived as a premium brand among potential customers and is no longer chasing volumes in a bid to gain 1% of the market. Last year dealers sold 11,844 units, a 21.5% increase on 2003, which gave Smart a market share of 0.4%.

Marketing will now be focused around areas of representation. Smart will abandon its national broadcast ad campaign.

Daimler-Chrysler recently decided to stop production of the Roadster after just two years on sale, while plans for a ForMore mini-SUV have been shelved.

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