Dr. Annette Winkler, CEO and director of smart, knows her way around what up to now has been a seriously male-dominated industry. Before assuming her current role, in which she became the first female to head a Daimler brand, she was CEO of Daimler Belgium and Luxembourg, but she had by then run a Mercedes-Benz heavy truck dealership, and knew how to handle every model they sold. During a recent visit, her first, to Vancouver, she was enthusiastic about the smart brand, and not simply because they are an industry leader (Daimler also owns a subsidiary called car2go).
She is enthusiastic because, as she puts it, “smart is the perfect urban mobility car.” And the company is taking this to new levels of what the term “urban mobility” means. For her, environmental issues are cultural issues, and as such, smart is developing programmes in which innovative benefits come with ownership of a smart vehicle. “You need a lifestyle sales approach to make it work,” Winkler says.
Benefits include parking ease, economical fuel consumption, access to car2go programmes, access to electric cars, and even electric bicycles. And other perks are coming as well. So is the new generation smart fortwo model. (A four-door version is currently only available in Europe.) “We are working on a cultural shift, really,” she says. “Urban mobility is a big issue, and we want to create incentives for people to be enthusiastic about electric driving, about Smart driving.” For anyone who has tried to find a parking space in San Francisco at 6:00 p.m. can well attest to, the timing seems just about right.
Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc.