Jill Lajdziak Promoted to President of Smart after Three Days
By Brendan Moore
Smart USA has announced that Jill Lajdziak, former head of Saturn, has been appointed to the president’s job at Smart. The move comes three days after Lajdziak joined the company as an employee, ostensibly as their Vice President of Marketing and Sales.
The 53 year-old Lajdziak replaces Dave Schembri, who is taking an as-yet unidentified position with Penske Automotive Group, the company that owns Smart USA, and is the parent corporation of the Penske retail dealership empire, the second-largest dealer group in the United States.
The news was not expected; but now that Lajdziak is in the position, one must believe that her ascension to the position was in the works all along.
Roger Penske, the hard-driving fellow that runs the Penske conglomerate, had this to say: “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.”
Smart’s U.S. sales dropped 38% in the first 11 months of 2009, including a whopping 66% free-fall in November.
Schembri had no comment. But a spokesman for Penske stated, “Dave will transition into retail operations at Penske Automotive Group with our dealerships. 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.”
Hmm. It sounds like no one told Schembri what was happening until after the decision was made.
Lajdziak has over 30 years of experience in the auto business, and enjoyed a good reputation among Saturn’s dealers. It is expected that she will need to call on all of her skills and experience to right the listing ship that is Smart.
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