• Feb 15th 2011 at 10:56AM
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Smart/Nissan Collaboration sketch - Click above for high-res image gallery

Hot on the heels of the news that Penske and Smart have split comes word that the Smart/Nissan collaboration is dead. Automotive News is reporting that the project, which was intended to yield a four-door model built off of a Nissan platform and sold under the Smart banner, won't be happening. The reason is simple enough; if Smart had continued to blaze its own trail here in America, it would have needed at least one additional model to support itself. Now that it's part of the Mercedes-Benz network, that need has been diminished significantly.

Meanwhile, there's some concern that a separate Nissan/Renault collaboration project called the Quattro may be axed as well. With the slaughter of multiple projects and Penske walking away, more than a few minds have begun to wonder if this is the end for Smart in the Land of the Free. According to the Automotive News report, however, Roger Penske says that's not the case.

Penske said that the fact that Smart is being handed off to Mercedes-Benz is nothing compared to the death of Hummer or Mercury, and that his company simply didn't have the volume or marketing muscle to push Smart effectively.

Either way, AN says that the transition to Benz dealerships means that the Smart dealership network will shrink significantly, leaving just 58 dealers across the country. That's because 21 Smart showrooms that aren't paired with Mercedes models won't get to keep their franchises.

New Smart/Nissan small car
  • New Smart/Nissan small car
  • New Smart/Nissan small car sketch (front)
  • New Smart/Nissan small car
  • New Smart/Nissan small car sketch (rear)

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req.]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Smart made a Mitsubishi-based four-door Smart car, and it bombed in Europe and Japan. No one wanted to pay more for a Mitsubishi with two-tone paint and a crappier drivetrain. So, I don't see why people would be any more enthusiastic about paying more for a Nissan with two-tone paint and a crappier drivetrain.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If they are only going to offer a shoe-sized car that gets no better mpg than it has, good riddance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Therein is the issue. The 4-2 makes NO sense in the US for 'size'. And NY is a fail since few in the city drive. So while you can accept an inefficient vehicle just so you can park easier, the Smart car will only sell here if it gets very, very high mpg.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Therein is the issue. The 4-2 makes NO sense in the US for 'size'. And NY is a fail since few in the city drive. So while you can accept an inefficient vehicle just so you can park easier, the Smart car will only sell here if it gets very, very high mpg." -Superx

        NYC isn't really a "fail" - to use American male parlance - since the number of private vehicles compared with use of public transportation is on a par with London or Paris. And I will repeat, the engine used in the US car is the worst of the bunch in terms of fuel economy - the turbocharged and turbodiesel variants of the ForTwo both command better real-world mileage.

        Americans simply aren't as familiar with small car technology, or fuel-efficient engine technology, as Europeans are. The ForTwo was designed primarily with transport infrastructure in mind, but as everyone else predicted, the moment it arrived Stateside, the question of economy expectations were going to be paramount. The ForTwo's biggest problem has been its transmission, and has been since day one. But you have a point, given Americans' different attitude towards cars, the ForTwo was only ever going to be at best a novelty there. By the same token, Europeans don't put up with the poor build quality and inefficient engine technology which American cars have traditionally been endowed with.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Superx hit the nail on the head, and into the coffin.

        And if was intended to get the styling in the rendering that makes Sandra Bernhard look like a supermodel, good riddance.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The US only gets one of a number of engines available in the European ForTwo. Whatsmore, as the US gets used to a larger choice of smaller cars, Americans will slowly come to understand over time that there is no such correlation of the smaller the car, the more economical it has to be. The ForTwo itself was not borne out of fuel economy, it was created out of a need to urban manoeuvrability.

        For the past 13 years I've always felt it would have made more sense to market the Smart via the Mercedes umbrella, preferably via Mercedes dealerships, and especially so since the ForFour and Roadster were discontinued. This cuts down on Smart's very high overhead base and lines up well with the existing Mercedes vehicle line, offering a further choice below the A-Class.

        Daimler-Benz would be better to contract Smart's position in the US market with the exception of major cities such as New York or Boston, which exhibit similar infrastructures to European cities which make the ForTwo a viable choice for urban transportation. But it sorely needs a better gearbox first.
      • 4 Years Ago
      well that Nissan C11 chasis its so great, it carry the tiida and the leaf too, so it not surpriseme another brand would like t use it
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Mercedes Benz dealer near me bought the property across the street about a decade ago and built a stand-alone Maybach dealership. That failed and Maybach sales are now over at the MB dealership. So they converted it to a Smart dealership. That lasted about a year and now Smart is also sold in the original MB dealership. Now the building is used to sell their commercial products, namely the Sprinter. Though they seem to be expanding the original MB dealership, so who knows, maybe Sprinter sales will go in house too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Interesting correlation. If history does repeat itself, your prediction just might come true!
      • 4 Years Ago
      That can't be good, the Seattle Smart store is attached to an Acura dealer. I hope another Smart location opens in my area.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would suspect that this is much more about Daimler meeting its CAFE requirements in the US than anything else. The article in AN made it sound as if the Daimler approached Penske about getting the distribution rights back. They need to drive up volume. Bringing it in house reduces costs. Contrary to the article it should increase the number of dealers because it will now be available to all M-B dealers. The existing Smart network is much smaller than the Mercedes network.

      Either way, Smart realy needs more product. The curiousity factor for the ForTwo has worn away and people have realized that a Fit or Fiesta makes more sense for them. ...and they have room for groceries.
      • 4 Years Ago
      A four door + hatchback version of the Smart, with a smoother tranny, would be a hit in the USA market. The price would still be important. I hope FIAT is reading this too.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I may get down rated for this, but one of my main problems with the Smart Car is the name. "Smart"? It seems kind of snobby, pretentious, and gimmicky to me, like "Scion IQ".

      Giving it a normal name for those of us who would not need to advertise economy may be a start.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There's also the issue of it not actually being very smart, since the mileage advantage is small, and immediately countered by the fact that if you get something like a Fiesta (or whatever your subcompact of preference), it's better to drive, not too far off in price, doesn't require premium fuel, and you can bring your friends.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That and the fact that it looks stupid, at least in the eyes of most it seems, and it is simply not practical for the overwhelming majority of American drivers.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If it was going to look like that, this is good news
      • 3 Years Ago
      Smart should've brought the Forfour over to the U.S. instead of the Fortwo. Honestly I can see it being a competitor to the Chevy Aveo and Hyundai Accent. If Smart offered it here with a base price of $13,000 through $15,000 for the 1.5L 109hp. $18,000 for a turbocharged version with 147hp and $22,000 for a Brabus version with at least 180hp. Swapped out the sequential gearbox for a CVT or six-speed automatic. Smart would've been popular.
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