Daimler selling 666 Smart cars via Chinese microblog service image

Daimler AG has announced it will sell a limited edition of its Smart city car through China’s largest microblog service as it tries to reach out to the country’s 564 million Internet users.

Starting tomorrow, Daimler will offer 666 units of the Smart ForTwo on the Weibo website, an equivalent to Twitter owned by Sina Corporation. Buyers must register online and put down a 1,999 yuan ($321) deposit for the 128,888-yuan model, according to the Sina.com website cited by Bloomberg.

Daimler’s use of social networking services is an alternative route to reach consumers even as the automaker opens more sales outlets in the world’s largest car market. Daimler sold 15,680 Smart cars in China in 2012, an increase of 45 percent from 2011.

Mercedes-Benz fell further behind BMW and Audi in China sales last year as the luxury brand grew more slowly than its two main rivals. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said on January 14 the company must turn around its struggling Chinese operations to catch up with BMW and Audi.

China added 51 million Internet users last year, giving it more Web users than the entire population of any other country excluding India. Sina Weibo has more than 368 million users, according to its website.