Fleet News

Britain joins Smart set after two years

BRITAIN has finally joined the 'Smart' set - two years after the micro mini was introduced to mainland Europe. With the 600cc left-hand-drive two-door, two-seater's official launch at the show, the UK has become the DaimlerChrysler subsidiary brand's 10th market.

Smarts have been filtering into the country since the first Smarts left the Micro Compact Car (MCC) factory in France.

And it was the growing trade in 'grey' and personal imports that was a major factor in the decision taken this summer to establish an official sales, servicing and customer support network by October, initially through Mercedes-Benz dealerships and established Smart importers, and to develop a right-hand-drive version - probably a four-door, five-seater.

Full UK-specification Smarts, produced on a new line at the Hambach plant, will be available by 2002, and sales of up to 10,000 units a year are anticipated through conventional dealers and via the internet. In the meantime new and existing customers will be offered full MCC backing in the UK. Four Smart sales centres are up and running - in Piccadilly and Chiswick in London, in Milton Keynes and in Birmingham - although just London and Birmingham currently have servicing facilities.

Joachim Eberhardt, managing director of DaimlerChrysler UK, said the internet had a major role to play in the brand's UK development. Its new website, offers 'an interactive relationship' - everything from test drive booking to online finance and service arrangements.

'The world of e-commerce is an ideal community for Smart to excel in,' said Eberhardt, who claimed the Smart site 'offered more of the transaction online than is currently offered by any other manufacturer in the UK'.

Three Smart 'City Coupe' models are on sale officially in Britain. These are 'Smart & Pure' with a 44bhp three-cylinder 600cc engine and priced at £5,400 on-the-road; 'Smart & Pulse' 54bhp from £6,300; and 'Smart & Passion' also 54bhp but with air conditioning and alloy wheels and priced from £7,100.

Standard equipment includes radio, rev counter and clock and all come with a three-year/ 25,000-mile warranty and a year's breakdown cover.

Hinting at Smart range expansion, MCC president Andreas Renschler, said: 'Today you identify the Smart brand with the City Coupe, but in a few years' time it will be different.'

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