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Lajdziak replaces Schembri as the president of Smart USA

Tue, 05 Jan 2010 00:00:00 -0800

Jill Lajdziak, Saturn's former top executive, was named president of Smart USA just three days after starting with the company.

David Schembri, who previously held the job, will take an unidentified position with the Penske Automotive Group, which distributes the Smart ForTwo microcar in the United States, the company said.

"Dave will transition into retail operations at Penske Automotive Group with our dealerships," said Penske spokesman Anthony Pordon. "We haven't slotted him into a position at one of the dealerships. We will help him become part of our retail operations group in various different capacities; it could be running a store or a group or a group of stores."

Lajdziak, 53, joined Smart on Jan. 1 as vice president of marketing and sales. On Monday, Penske Automotive unexpectedly announced her promotion to the top job.

"As we look to enhance the position of the Smart brand, Jill's background and experience will help us reinvigorate the dealer network and bring a greater awareness to the smart brand," Roger Penske, chairman of the Penske Automotive Group, said in a statement.

Penske planned to acquire Saturn from GM and sell a new line of Saturn-based vehicles made by Renault. But the deal fell apart on Sept. 30 when the Renault SA board nixed the deal.

After a bright start in 2008, Smart floundered in the U.S. market last year and sales fell 38 percent through the end of November. December sales are scheduled to be reported tomorrow.

Schembri was at the helm when Smart, which is made by Germany's Daimler AG, launched in the United States. Smart has 79 dealerships in the United States.

By Diana T. Kurylko- Automotive News