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Smart sees U.S. market potential of 20,000 cars

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Reuters / September 12, 2005 FRANKFURT -- DaimlerChrysler's mini-car brand Smart expects to be able to sell 20,000 units a year in the United States if and when it heads to the world's largest automarket, its chief executive said on Monday. "We have done initial market studies and concluded the market potential is 20,000 units," CEO Ulrich Walker told reporters at the Frankfurt auto show. Smart has already said it was studying entering the U.S. market with its tiny two-seater city car, the ForTwo. Walker said a decision would be made by the end of the year. Last week, he told Reuters that all signs pointed to Smart launching in the United States, where roads are dominated by large gas-guzzlers that would dwarf the ForTwo. Many car executives are expecting demand for small, more fuel-efficient cars to rise as oil prices surge. Walker also reiterated that there were no plans for DaimlerChrysler, which is coming under new management, to shut down loss-making Smart. "There is a clear commitment from the company," he said. Smart is expected to break even by 2007.

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