汽车大亨罗杰•彭斯克上周放弃了Smart牌微型车在美国的独家经销权。过你不必太为彭斯克感到难过。事实上，彭斯克上周三的这个决定赢得了投资者的一致喝彩。彭斯克汽车集团（Penske Automotive Group）的财务业绩也获得好评，集团股价几乎达到了三年以来的最高值。
Smart ForTwo是戴姆勒集团（Daimler AG）生产的一款双座微型轿车，这款车型一直没能达到销售预期。在三年的时间里，该车型共售出了45000辆，不过销售量却呈递减趋势。彭斯克汽车集团的总部位于密歇根州布隆菲尔德山，该集团高级副总裁托尼•波尔顿表示：“这款车型有个热闹的开始，但过去的两年却很困难。”
相反，汽油价格徘徊不前，经济举步维艰。美国汽车市场上还出现了许多与Smart竞争的小型车，如本田飞度（Honda Fit）、日产骐达（Nissan Versa）、福特嘉年华（Ford Fiesta）、丰田雅力士（Toyota Yaris）和雪佛兰乐骋（Chevrolet Aveo）等。这使问题变得更加复杂了。
Don't feel too sorry for automotive mogul Roger Penske, who this week threw in the towel on the exclusive U.S. distribution rights for the Smart line of small cars. Investors were cheering his decision Wednesday, along with the financial results of Penske Automotive Group (PAG, Fortune 500), bidding shares nearly to a three-year high.
The Smart ForTwo, a diminutive two-seater built by Daimler AG, simply never met sales expectations, reaching about 45,000 cars sold over a three-year period, but at a declining rate. "It had a rip-roaring start," said Tony Pordon, senior vice president for the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan company. "The last two years have been difficult."
Penske, chairman and chief executive officer, bought the U.S. rights to sell Smart cars on behalf of his company in 2008 on the belief that gasoline prices would rise sharply higher and the economy would remain buoyant. Neither of those things happened.
Instead, gasoline prices stagnated, the economy tanked and, complicating matters, the U.S. vehicle market has seen the proliferation of small-car competitors, such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Aveo.
Smart, which starts at just under $13,000 in price, offered a battery-powered version, which had a range of 60 to 65 miles on a charge.
Smart -- in this writer's opinion and based on a few test drives -- is an estimable model, fun to drive and easy to handle. For city dwellers the car can squeeze into the tightest parking spaces; and obviously it is fuel efficient (combined 36 miles-per-gallon). Safety tests suggested it is no less safe than any other small car. But -- and this reservation is key -- it simply doesn't look big enough to belong on the American road.
Or, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan the actor in one of his B-movie roles: What happened to the rest of the car? Smart looks as though its rear had been lopped off with a giant ax. American drivers are willing to sacrifice size for economy -- they're not willing to look ridiculous.
Penske, which operates retail dealerships of most brands in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom, had planned to add a second Smart model, a larger hatchback, built by Nissan. That deal was canceled along with the automotive company's decision to hand Smart back to Daimler. Daimler said it will continue to sell Smart at Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
For all of 2010, Penske earned $108.3 million, a 41 percent increase from 2009, on revenue of $10.7 billion. Its Smart USA unit lost about $16 million for the year. The results beat analysts' expectations and prompted a rally in the shares of other auto retailers. After dipping below $6 a share in early 2009, Penske's stock has been marching steadily upward, hitting $21 a share at the close of trading on Wednesday.
Roger Penske, in an interview with Reuters, said he would be "opportunistic" about buying additional dealerships this year and was negotiating with two Detroit automakers, whom he declined to identify, on deals to buy U.S.-brand franchises.