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Auto Special: 'smart times' wraps up urban car's summer-long party


Amid the summer heat in one of China's hottest cities, hundreds of people met at the Nanjing International Exhibition Center on August 10 for one event - smart times 2013. 

Annette Winkler, global head of smart - a brand produced by Mercedes-Benz - was on site to enjoy the grand event with fans

"smart always brings surprises to people, not only surprising products, but also a surprising way of marketing," she said

"Meeting so many smart fans in Nanjing is just fantastic. Whenever I stay in this great country I see and feel that and why our customers here truly love smart and smart loves China: smart and China perfectly fit together," she added

With NBA superstar and smart brand ambassador Kobe Bryant as a major attraction, the event marked the finale of smart's summer-long party

First held in Austria in 2000, smart times is the world's largest annual gathering of smart owners and fans, and has become a popular event in numerous countries, according to the brand's executives

They said more than just a party, the event also helps present smart's unique brand values - "joy of life, functionality and innovation". 

According to Bjrn Hauber, executive vice-president for sales and marketing at Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co Ltd, smart times is an important event for smart car owners worldwide

"We first introduced this event in China last year in Shanghai, and it was an immediate hit with local smart fans," he said

"In 2013, we've brought smart times to even more cities, including Chengdu, Beijing and Shenzhen. Today's event in Nanjing marks the last stop in our annual event that has let even more smart fans join the party," he added

As the final destination of smart times 2013, the Nanjing stop was an extraordinary event, according to executives

Car owners from around China gathered at the Nanjing exhibition center, where brightly colored, distinctive smarts formed an eye-catching line-up

All of smart's 2013 special editions, including the Jeremy Scott edition, BoConcept edition and cityflame edition, were also present to showcase their unique personalities

In the evening, throngs of smart fans were treated to a series of surprises

After a futuristic LED light show, smart's latest special edition - the chocolate edition - became the center of attention as Winkler drove it onto the stage

This model will be officially launched at the Chengdu Motor Show on August 30, with a limited number of 588 units, but smart fans were given a preview at the Nanjing event

NBA superstar and smart brand ambassador Kobe Bryant brought the night to its climax

With an ever-increasing affection for smart, Bryant has been smart's China brand ambassador for three consecutive years

He said he was especially impressed by the reception smart received in Nanjing

"This is my first time in Nanjing, but I felt the chemistry between this city and smart almost immediately. Sharing smart's unique culture and driving with the brand's many fans is an experience I'll never forget." 

In 2013, smart continued its success in China, with 1,968 units sold in March, its highest-ever for the month, while June and July had growth of 20 percent and higher

"Our 2013 sales figures exceed those from the same period in 2012 and we expect this positive trend to continue throughout the rest of the year," said Winkler

On sale in China for only three years, there are now more than 42,000 smart cars on road in the country, its third-largest market globally

Though more cities are joining Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Guiyang to place limits on vehicle purchases to battle traffic congestion and pollution, Winkler said she is not worried about smart's future in China

"We even saw an unexpectedly high sales in Beijing and Shanghai. I am happy to know that people are willing to buy the smart not only for the unique and trendy lifestyle, but also for saving time for themselves and saving space for others," said Winkler

"smart is the car for the city with a trend-setting design and unique functionality. But it is even more than that - a 'big idea', a strong vision, a lifestyle icon and a solution for the ever-increasing mobility in Chinese metropolises and around the globe," she said

Winkler said the company will bring its smart electric drive to Chinese consumers at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014. 

"The smart electric drive will be the first certified European pure electric vehicle in the China market after huge success in Europe," said Winkler

She added the brand will continue to expand dealership coverage and services, especially in China's second- and third-tier cities, providing even more appeal and exposure to customers

"We are still talking about urban areas with populations that measure in the millions. In fact, China has a staggering 160 cities with populations over 1 million. These cities are similar in size to Paris or London," said Winkler

"By the end of 2013, we plan to have close to 100 outlets in 69 cities across China," she said. "Smart continues to bring a unique and trendy lifestyle to more and more cities. Taking its 'big ideas' about space, safety, comfort, and environmental protection to every corner of the globe, smart is setting the pace of urban life." 



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