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Smarting From Poor Sales, Smart To Sell Nissan-Built Small Car

Michael Sheena's picture

Daimler's smart division has had a rough go in the United States after an initial rush of sales in 2008. To help keep the lights on, smart's USA distributor Penske Automotive will be selling a Nissan-built small car starting in for the fourth quarter of next year.

With some smart dealerships already closing and new competition such as the Scion iQ headed to the USA, Daimler and Penske had to think outside the box for ways to keep the smart brand alive in the USA. The solution that they have arrived at is a Nissan-built, five door hatch that will give smart a more palatable offering to American buyers.

New Five Door Smart Will Give Americans A More Familiar Bodystyle

To be certain, the tiny fortwo is still the signature vehicle for smart, but many consumers the two seater simply was not large enough. The new car will offer more traditional trappings of a B-segment car. The danger for smart is that much like the Mitsubishi derived smart forfour, which was also a five door, so much of smart's brand DNA can be lost in a larger car, especially one that has not been specifically design with the brand in mind from the ground up.

Given that the new smart vehicle will be built in the Americas, it will not suffer the same currency exchange that the French made fortwo currently does. However, smart must be wary of simply slapping its "chicken head" logo on another manufacturer's car and calling it a day. The smart fortwo has many unique features, from its tridion safety cell, interchangeable body panels and quirky interior. How many of these features will the new Nissan model have? Will the Nissan continue with smart's disappointing 2 year warranty or carry a more industry standard 3 year coverage? How will the new smart be priced relative to the fortwo?

This new model is just the beginning of Daimler's cooperation with Renault/Nissan and there will be future smart models sharing platforms with the French automaker.

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