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Report: Smart Car Production Slowed

March 14, 1999

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ DaimlerChrysler is slowing production of its mini Smart car because the cartoonish-looking two-seater isn’t selling as well as planned, a newsmagazine reported Sunday.

The 2 1/2-yard long car takes up just about half of a standard parking spot and runs on around a third less gas than its compact rivals. With its mix-and-match, brightly colored replaceable parts and all-plastic body, the car is aimed at a young market.

A Smart car spokesman said the production schedule changes were due to the planned introduction of a 35-hour workweek at the plant in Hambach, France, on July 1, in accordance with a new French law.

In order to reach the required average working time in France, production will be stopped entirely for two weeks before Easter, said spokesman Wolfgang Riecke. After Easter, production will run with only one shift to prepare the assembly line to install more extras in the cars, he said.

Der Spiegel newsmagazine said the production slowdown was due to slower than expected sales. It said estimates for this year have been scaled down twice, from 140,000 to 100,000 and then to 80,000.

Riecke said the company still expected to sell 100,000 this year. A $280 price cut for the basic model to $9,000 is expected to spur demand, he said.

``We’re not giving up on the Smart,″ DaimlerChrysler board member Dieter Zetsche was quoted as saying.

Der Spiegel said the company also plans a new advertising campaign.

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