Smart Wants Even More Awareness

Despite at least a year-long waiting list in the U.S. from order to delivery, Smart is going to return to the Chicago Auto Show next February. 

It hasn't had an exhibit at the show since 2005, when it wasn't even on sale in the U.S. So why is Smart spending money and resources on getting the word out when it seems the word is already quite good?

It's especially surprising when you consider that other small automakers, like Porsche and Suzuki, dropped out of the Detroit auto show to save money. Even some major automakers have cut back on exhibit space on the auto show circuit to economize.

"When you cut back space from 180,000 square feet to 170,000 square feet, that's still one heck of a chunk of space, but at $8 a square foot it's also one heck of a chunk of savings," an auto show source said.

Clearly, Smart's action flies in the face of an industry that's pinching pennies and, in many cases, losing money. It helps, of course, that Smart is selling every car it can build and has people willing to wait a year or more to get one of its high-mileage machines.

"We're going to be at the major auto shows: Los Angeles, Detroit, New York and now we're adding Chicago," Smart spokesman Ken Kettenbeil said. "We've been talking to the people back in Germany about some smaller regional shows, too."

So why the need to generate more interest when you already have a year-long waiting list?

"In some areas of the country there is a year's wait to get a car, in some areas it's less," Kettenbeil said. "We would hope people would keep making reservations forever."

Consumers can reserve a Smart car by giving dealers a refundable $99 to get on a waiting list.

"Not everyone is familiar with Smart, so we have to keep awareness up," he said. "And we do have some cancellations."

By putting your name on the cancellation waiting list you can cut your waiting time in half, Kettenbeil said.

"You might get a car in only six months," he said, "though it may not be equipped as you originally ordered."

Smart 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show 2009 Detroit Auto Show