Smart once seemed like a sure bet in the United States. Owned by Daimler—who also own Mercedes—the intriguing little Smart was small, European, and pretty good on gas. Not good enough though, it seemed. There have been widespread complaints about the transmission, and the entry price of $16,990 was rather steep when many of the competitors were priced around $15,000. Is it any wonder that Smart’s sales have sunk in the face of relatively low gas prices?
The company is still afloat though, and in it for the long haul apparently. Smart will be partnering with Nissan to build a B-Segment (i.e. compact) car for the United States. All we have thus far is a sketch. Does it do it for you?
Whenever I see a Smart fortwo car, I just sort of shrug. It’s a nice city car I guess… but I don’t live in the city. And frankly, for the price, you can get a fully-loaded compact from any of the major car manufacturers. Consumers seem to realize this, and most of the reviews are lukewarm at best. Smart needs a new car… and they found a partner in Nissan.
Like I said, all we really have to go on is the sketch, and that this car would go on sale sometime in the 4th quarter of 2011. That tells me that it won’t be a whole-new car, but rather a rebadge of some existing Nissan as a Smart—perhaps a reskinned Versa? Renault-Nissan and Daimler (who owns Smart, as well as Mercedes) have already announced a partnership on a number of electric and diesel automotive projects. This is just another extension of that.
I know Smart is all about the small city car, but maybe adding yet another small car to their lineup isn’t the best way to go. How about a cheap, lightweight coupe? Or maybe just a car that doesn’t have a crappy, jerky transmission?
Judging solely by the sketch, what do you all think? You can check out the entire press release on the next page.