Just a few weeks ago, former Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak was hired by Penske Automotive to head sales and marketing for its Smart USA operations. Now Lajdziak will take over the entire operation as the new president of Smart USA, replacing Dave Schembri, who held the post since its inception.

In the past several months, sales of the Smart Fortwo have collapsed in the U.S. with November down 65 percent. Lajdziak will have to find a way to convince buyers that a tiny but not inexpensive car with so-so fuel economy and a horrible transmission is a good idea. Tilting at windmills is nothing new for Lajdziak; she worked at Saturn throughout its entire nearly twenty-year run. Revamping the sales network will apparently be a big part of her job, since a new version of the Fortwo is not on the immediate horizon. The press release is after the jump.

[Source: Smart USA]


PRESS RELEASE

Penske Automotive Announces Management Changes at smart USA
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI,

January 4, 2010 – Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE:PAG), an international automotive retailer and exclusive distributor of the smart fortwo through its wholly-owned subsidiary smart USA Distributor LLC ("smart USA"), announced today that Jill Lajdziak has been named President of smart USA. In this role, Lajdziak will assume day to day operations for the smart brand in the United States. Lajdziak has over 30 years of progressive automotive experience, including expertise in brand development, product marketing and customer satisfaction. Penske Automotive Group Chairman Roger Penske said, "As we look to enhance the position of the smart brand, Jill's background and experience will help us reinvigorate the dealer network and bring a greater awareness to the smart brand." Previously, smart USA was managed by Dave Schembri. Schembri will transition into Penske Automotive Group's retail operations. Penske continued, "I would like to thank Dave for his efforts over the last three and a half years with smart USA. His contributions were instrumental in helping us bring smart to the United States."

About Penske Automotive

Penske Automotive Group, Inc., (www.penskeautomotive.com) headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, operates 310 retail automotive franchises, representing 40 different brands and 25 collision repair centers. Penske Automotive, which sells new and previously owned vehicles, finance and insurance products and replacement parts, and offers maintenance and repair services on all brands it represents, has 160 franchises in 17 states and Puerto Rico and 150 franchises located outside the United States, primarily in the United Kingdom. Penske Automotive, through its wholly-owned subsidiary smart USA Distributor LLC (www.smartusa.com), is the exclusive distributor of the smart f
ortwo vehicle and related parts in the United States. smart USA supports over 75 smart retail centers in the United States. Penske Automotive is a member of the Fortune 500 and Russell 1000 and has approximately 14,000 employees. smart and fortwo are registered trademarks of Daimler AG.