During the blur of the Detroit Auto Show this week, we checked in with fresh Smart USA president Jill Lajdziak to see what the boss has to say about her new job, sales of the fortwo in the U.S. and what's up with the all-electric Smart Ed. Lajdziak only recently joined up with Penske Automotive and Smart after spending time as general manager at Saturn. She was named to the top post just last week.

Lajdziak's main message was that the Smart brand is just getting started in the U.S. Even though sales took a serious nosedive in late 2009, "The car has more potential than we are realizing," Lajdziak told AutoblogGreen. She cited the decrease in fuel prices as one reason for the drop in sales – adding that efficiency and/or miles per gallon won't be the main focus of the brand's 2010 advertising campaign. Instead, the lifestyle of the Smart car driver will be highlighted. "We need to make sure the marketing is as innovative as the car," she said.

What does that mean? Having a dealer footprint of just 77 stores allows Smart to do some creative things to get people's attention, like short-term stores in urban areas, Lajdziak said. But some drivers really want the most efficient Fortwo possible, and that means EV. Lajdziak said that some current Fortwo owners have contacting Smart to see if there is a waiting list to get an electric version. There isn't any such list, we were promised more information in the second quarter of 2010 (think New York Auto Show in late March/early April).

Even though Lajdziak has not yet driven the Smart Ed, she said that, "it's really a natural for electric technology to come to this brand and this car, and we certainly look forward to doing that later this year." Before the car makes its arrival here, Daimler engineers are working on a lot of enhancements following all of the test fleet programs and the early test drives that are providing feedback.

Back home, Smart USA will be getting people behind the wheel of a Fortwo through the Car2go car sharing program, coming soon to Austin, TX. Smart USA has not yet discussed putting any Smart Eds into the Car2go program, but we think pairing electric drive with car sharing is a pretty brilliant option for city dwellers.


Related GalleryDetroit 2010: Smart Fortwo Car2go

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