BARCELONA - Spain will become a major customer evaluation ground for the Smart car, the city car being jointly developed by Mercedes and the Swiss company SMH.
Seven dealerships will sell Smart in Spain, three of them located in major tourist areas: Alicante, Palma de Majorca and Gran Canaria. The joint-venture company, Micro Compact Car AG, plans to build major links with the tourist trade. It will forge ties with airlines and travel agents to allow holiday makers to rent the two-seater Smart cars as part of their vacation package.
The other four dealerships are in major cities - Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Valencia.
Micro Compact Car announced details of its radical retailing strategy for the Smart at the Barcelona auto show, where it showed an interior concept of the car.
Eight countries will start selling the cars in 1998, including Spain. Altogether, only 100 Smart centers are planned across the whole of Europe, covering 86 metropolitan areas. As Smart is a pure city car, the company believes there is little point in building a large network in smaller towns.
Micro Compact Car is taking a 'clean sheet of paper' approach similar to that of Saturn in the US. All the Smart Centers will follow a corporate pattern, including a distinctive car tower with built-in elevator.
They will be located in out-of-town shopping centers, and Micro Compact Car wants dealers to develop satellite sales service and 'communication' points within their territories.
Micro Compact Car is building a new plant at Hambach in Lorraine, France, known as Smart Ville, to produce the car at a rate of 200,000 units a year, creating 2,000 jobs.