Micro Compact Car is enlisting the aid of related transportation companies to make owning a Smart car easier than another kind.
A five-point program, called Smartmove, goes in two directions. To make ownership a better experience, Smartmove offers cheaper parking, cheaper rentals for the occasional large car and a new information and navigation system.
To expose non-owners to the Smart car, Smartmove is pushing sales to car-sharing companies and organizations like railroad companies that can offer Smart cars at stations so commuters or vacationers can complete their travel.
Smart drivers will get cheaper parking in special sites adapted to the size of the car. The Smart is only 2500mm long, and two Smarts can fit in one normal space. When the car goes on sale in October, selected parking facilities in Zurich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Berlin and other major cities will offer parking at a reduced rate.
The Smart is too small for some transport needs, like family vacations, so Smartmove has arranged a discount scheme with Avis, the rental company, beginning in October. 'Customers can save between 20 and 30 percent on their rental charges,' said Wolfgang Riecke, the chief spokesman for MCC, 'sometimes even up to 50 percent.'
From April 1999, a mobility box will be available to German Smart drivers. This includes a navigation system and an emergency function, combined with integrated communication and information services. The navigation system will be updated continuously with actual traffic conditions. In case of an accident the position of the car will be automatically reported to an emergency center.
Speading the word
Public transport companies are big potential partners for MCC.
'When customers arrive at an airport or a train station they will have the chance to pick up a Smart as if they were getting on a bus,' said Reinhard Hossfeld, who is responsible for marketing and sales of Smart's 'Mobility Systems.'
'Pilot projects will be first tested and optimized in Germany and Switzerland,' said Hossfeld. 'Next year we can start to look at other countries as well.'
Switzerland is the home of SMH, the Swiss partner of Germany's Daimler-Benz. SMH has 19 percent of Micro Compact Car.
Pilot programs will be tested in Zurich, Stuttgart and Wuppertal, Germany. 'In other countries the demand for such a service is lower than here, but the talks are beginning,' said Hossfeld.
Car-sharing companies, an alternative to rental companies, are already popular in Germany. With the purchase of a Smart, customers can also become members of a 'Smartmove Car Sharing' program.
'We want to cooperate with car-sharing companies nationwide,' said Hossfeld.
German car sharers have founded a bundesverband, a network of cooperation. This means a Smart owner could use public transport to reach another city and get into a Smart car there at the car-sharing company.
'The rates for this might not be much less than for a regular car rental,' said Hossfeld, 'but the advantage over regular car rental will be a higher flexibility for the customer, for example, renting a Smart for only a few hours.'
This service will also be first available in Germany and Switzerland, before other markets will be approached.