Thursday, April 08, 2010
Smart 4-seater for U.S. likely to come from alliance
A four-seat Smart car developed jointly by the Daimler-Renault-Nissan alliance is likely to be sold in the United States, said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche.
Zetsche said having a partner for developing a four-seat Smart “was a prerequisite” for expanding the microcar range. “We could not have found a feasible basis alone for the next-generation Smart family,” he said in a call with reporters today.
The next-generation SmartForTwo two-seater, a four-seat Smart and the next-generation Renault Twingo will be jointly developed by the partners. The agreement calls for electric versions of both the Smart and Twingo families as well as sharing and co-development of diesel and gasoline engines.
“Of course, we could do a next-generation Smart alone, but we would lose a lot of money,” said Zetsche, who noted that a final decision on a four-seater for the United States hasn't been made.
Daimler AG would also have had a hard time recouping the required 10 percent return-on-sales it requires for new vehicles by developing a second Smart on its own, he said.
Zetsche said Daimler has no intention of using Nissan dealers in the United States to sell Smart cars. The partnership announced today with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. will not affect the Smart distributorship agreement Daimler has with Penske Automotive Group, the sole distributor of Smart cars in the United States.
The SmartForTwo went on sale in the United States in 2008. A total of 24,622 were sold that year, exceeding Daimler's and Penske's expectations.
As gasoline prices fell from record highs and the economy collapsed, Smart sales plunged 41 percent in 2009. This year's demand is down 72 percent from year-earlier levels.