FRANKFURT - Smart car dealers across Europe are joining together to protect their interests. A six-month delay in the Smart's introduction is costing everyone money as employees and buildings sit idle.
All but three of the 38 German Smart dealers formed the Organization of Smart Distribution Partners in Germany in January. A Europe-wide group of the existing 108 dealers is to be formed by the end of the month.
The German dealers invested DM3 million-DM9 million ($1.6 million-$4.9 million) each, said the chairman of the German organization, Ulrich Fromme. He owns a dealership in Duisburg, near Duesseldorf.
'These buildings are either finished or almost finished and constantly produce costs,' he said. 'Another problem is that all have recruited personnel that cannot be sent on vacation until sales begin.'
Fromme said the dealers and Micro Compact Car, the Daimler-Benz subsidiary, treat each other as partners. He said both sides have agreed on a plan to support the dealers.
There will be no compensation for lost or missing sales and income, said Fromme, because this could not be calculated. Dealers will be compensated individually because costs vary with the region and the size of their buildings.
The total for dealers has not been announced. Daimler-Benz budgeted DM300 million to cover all costs caused by the delay: technical changes to the car to solve its stability problems, new marketing and dealer compensation.
To keep dealer sales staff busy, Micro Compact Car is offering more training and seminars.
Daimler-Benz is getting some use out of the empty Smart car factory in Hambach, France. The facility and its workers will repair the 10,000 Mercedes-Benz A-class cars assembled in Germany before the new electronic stability package was available.