Smart: Right Car, Right Time?
When I sat down at a table in the bar of W Hotel, on the Hoboken, NJ side of the Hudson River, across from Lower Manhattan, I had no idea the lady next to me was Jill Lajdziak (pronounced La-jek); and even after she introduced herself, the name didn't ring a bell with me. That's how out of touch I can be from the normal auto industry.
Turns out that Ms. Lajdziak is not only the president of SmartUSA, but also one of the top 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry, so reports Wikipedia.
Prior to Roger Penske appointing her to head his SmartUSA division, she was the former General Manager of GM's Saturn car division, which Penske came within a nanometer of acquiring from GM. It was over that table of drinks that I learned the deal was ultimately killed because it financial backers were afraid of the economic impact of currency fluctuations. Penske had arranged to have the Saturn line built overseas, and the volatility of currency markets was the deal breaker.
So, Lajdziak found herself heading up the SmartUSA as of January of this year, after a rocky 2009 that saw smart car sales plummet, largely because it's considered a second or third car by most buyers, Lajdziak explains. As she recounts in this video recorded during the media briefing for the introduction of the smart ED electric car, things are looking up for the brand, and the arrival of an electric-drive model, even if only a few hundred, will allow it to raise its visibility more, especially at the precise moment when the public's attention has been drawn to the consequences of our unquenchable thirst for oil.
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