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.
[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]