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Smart Car Ad Misfires in Stuttgart

December 21, 1998

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) _ Germans could wave down a new micro-compact car in the street for free test drives today, but Stuttgart taxi drivers weren’t amused.

Some 20 two-seat Smart cars circulating in the city were stopping for people hailing them at taxi stands, said Peter Kristan, a spokesman for local taxi operators.

``It’s a promotion stunt to the detriment of our business,″ he said.

Kristan said he was especially upset because Smarts are made by a unit of Daimler-Chrysler, which also makes the pale yellow Mercedes taxis that are a fixture on German streets.

He said the taxi operators were calling a protest strike of several hours Tuesday.

Daimler-Chrysler placed ads in newspapers around Germany for people to wave down Smart cars marked with a waving hand for a 30-minute test ride.

A Daimler-Chrysler spokesman said the promotion was not aimed at stealing customers from taxis. ``We beg them to accept our apologies if this has led to some irritation,″ he said.

According to the Smart’s maker, Micro Compact Car, some 880 of the specially marked cars were operating in Germany, and no complaints had been received from other cities.

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