Dave Schembri:

The smart fortwo: coming to America



See the new smart fortwo on the road and you’ll probably love it or hate it as it definitely stands out from the crowd. Drive it and you’ll find things that you love and things that you could definitely like more. But ultimately, the launch of the smart fortwo in the U.S. in January 2008 will excite the image-conscious, environmentally-focused, and parking space-constrained consumer.
The shortest and most compact automobile currently in production is scheduled to enter the largest automotive market in the world next year. Who is smart? smart is a member of Mercedes-Benz cars and the result of a 1994 joint venture between Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of Swatch watches and Mercedes-Benz.. Smart is engineered and manufactured in Europe.
Defying the two-seater image
A compact car that is currently only available as a two-seat vehicle (get it – for two), the fortwo doesn’t feel like you’re driving a two-seater. The vehicle only measures 106 inches in length, roughly 9 feet, yet the spacious cabin provides enough leg and head room for those taller than average. The openness of the cabin and forward placement of the instrument panel eliminate the cramped and constrained feelings of other compact cars, however, the reach to the center stack controls suffers, requiring most drivers to lean forward uncomfortably to adjust the air conditioning, change the radio station, etc. The cargo space, located directly behind the front seats, is easily accessible by the driver, combating the lack of a center console, and provides enough openness behind the driver to increase the level of comfort with the small amount of space that exists between you and the traffic behind you. The passenger seat folds flat for extra space for large items. Elbow and shoulder room is limited, but the smart engineers thought of that too, offsetting the passenger seat behind the driver seat by 5 inches and avoiding shoulder-to-shoulder positioning. If you’re comfortable with your passenger, you won’t mind grabbing his knee every now and then when you overreach for the shift knob. If not, it may take a while to get used to the closeness of knob, both to you and the seat next to you.

Traditional storage areas like map pockets in the door and a lockable glove box exist, as do cubbies to the left and right of the steering wheel that easily hold a cell phone, sunglasses, and other small items that you may typically store in a center or overhead console. A slanted floor and a forward lip help to keep the items from sliding out when accelerating and cornering. Two cup holders located on the floor under the instrument panel are sufficient for their purpose, but difficult to reach.

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Schembri and Killen – American Marketing Management Out at Mitsubishi


Editors NOTE: Since this was written, Dave Schembri has landed at Roger Penski’s smart operations in the USA. Schembri had been head of smart at Mercedes-Benz USA prior to joining MMNA. Wayne Killen joined Hyundai Motor America as Director of Product Planning in early 2007.
Mitsubishi Motors North America announced on Friday, February 17, that Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Schembri and Vice President of Marketing Wayne Killen had resigned from the Company. In a statement by Mitsubishi, “Both left to pursue other opportunities.”
The former Mitsubishi marketing duo joined Mitsubishi at a time when sales were off drastically from prior years and no rebound in sight. Just stabilizing losses and rebuilding from a lower base of sales may have been considered a success, but even after a year with Dave Schembri running Sales and Marketing the Titanic couldn’t be turned.
Schembri joined Mitsubishi Motors North America in February 2005 after serving as the chief of the Maybach brand at Mercedes-Benz USA and then head of its still-born smart division. With the demise of smart’s efforts in the USA shortly following the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Schembri moved westward to Mitsubishi headquarters in Cypress, California.
Wayne Killen, brand manager for the ill-advised Maybach brand at MBUSA joined Schembri at Mitsubishi in August 2005 as Vice President of Marketing. Working for Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America early in his career (1987 – 1989), Killen had most recently spent ten years at Mercedes-Benz USA. At MMNA, Killen was responsible for advertising, brand experience marketing, product and marketing public relations and product strategy.
During their tenure at MMNA, Schembri and Killen launched the 2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse and Mitsubishi Raider pickup and had just completed the public introduction of the soon-on-sale Eclipse Spyder.
The duties of Schembri and Killen are beeing handled by Hiroshi Harunari. Harunari has bee co-Chief Operating Officer of Mitsubishi Motors North America since January 2006. Rich Gilligan, former head of Mitsubishi’s manufacturing operations in Normal Illinois continues as the other co-COO.
These moves at Mitsubishi demonstrate the level of exposure senior managers take at some import-brand distributors. Last Fall, Peter Butterfield was ousted from his position as head of Kia Motors of America. In January, after a very confident presentation at the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Bob Cosmai fell at Hyundai Motor America. While Schembri and Killen had not yet been able to stabilize MMNA’s fortunes in the USA, Butterfield and Cosmai were managing companies that have healthy growth and prospects.

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