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Smart Reveals New ForTwo Cabrio

America’s smallest car goes topless.

by on Aug.28, 2015

The newly redesigned Smart ForTwo Cabrio will offer a three-position canvas top.

The new Smart car hasn’t yet landed in showrooms in the U.S. but the German microcar maker is already rolling out a second version, with a third on the way.

The redesigned Smart ForTwo Cabrio gets a new canvas “tritop” that can open up like a sunroof or fold back more like a conventional convertible. Set to formally debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the two-seater will reach showrooms in mid-spring 2016.

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“Our new smart cabrio really exudes joie de vivre in the city – which is what our brand stands for”, said Smart brand boss Annette Winkler. “I am sure that we will delight our present 220,000 cabrio customers and win lots of new fans with this successful lifestyle icon.”


Little Smart Has Big Ambitions for New ForTwo

But is there a market for microcars in truck-happy U.S.?

by on Aug.25, 2015

Two extremes of the Daimler AG family, the 2016 Smart ForTwo with a row of Western Star trucks.

Size matters. That’s long been a guiding principle in the U.S. auto industry, and with fuel prices down sharply this year, it seems truer than ever as American motorists once again shift from fuel-efficient small cars to larger SUVs, CUVs and pickups.

And that raises a serious question about this year’s launch of what will be the smallest car on the U.S. market, the 2016 Smart ForTwo. After a seemingly endless delay, parent Daimler AG has launched an all-new version of the microcar just as potential competitors, such as the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500 struggle to reverse double-digit sales declines.

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Nonetheless, “We hope there is much more potential” for a brand that has so far failed to live up to its initial promise, says Annette Winkler, the head of the Smart brand during a first U.S. media drive of the new ForTwo model.


Smart Video Reveals Two New Models

Next-gen city cars will get even smaller.

by on May.08, 2014

The new Smart ForFour and ForTwo undergoing winter testing in Sweden.

Finally – but will anyone actually notice? That’s the question the folks at Smart, the microcar division of Daimler AG, have to be worrying about as, after much too long of a wait, they finally get ready to launch two all-new models.

And a new video posted on Youtube offers a first close-up look at the two only slightly camouflaged new products, the all-new ForFour, and the replacement for the Smart ForTwo.


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Both are shown undergoing winter testing in Sweden, a routine part of the product development process for most manufacturers.

How soon are they likely to come to market? Soon, it appears, Chief Engineer Markus Riedel telling the video crew both models are pretty much ready to be launched.


Smart Forvision Envisions a Better Microcar

Maker’s new 2-seater will be based on Renault technology.

by on Sep.19, 2011

The battery-powered Smart Forvision concept provides a hint of the next-generation Smart Fortwo.

Struggling Smart is offering up a vision of what could be the future of its two-seat Fortwo microcar.

The new Smart Forvision concept vehicle on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show is a long-delayed and much-needed replacement for a vehicle that has become increasingly outdated even as the competition floods the market with an assortment of hipper, more technically sophisticated alternatives.

The Forvision follows the unveiling of the earlier Fospeed cabriolet concept which was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

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“We’ve used all the tricks in the book,” said Thomas Weber, a senior executive with Smart parent Daimler AG, during the prototype’s preview in Frankfurt.

That notably includes finding a partner to help develop the microcar.  In the decade since Smart launched Daimler has struggled to come up with a working business strategy for its smallest brand.  It has lost billions on Smart and abandoned all earlier models but the Fortwo.

The Smart Forvision concept makes extensive use of carbon-fiber-based composites.

Going forward, the new business case will call for partnering with the Euro-Asian Renault/Nissan alliance.  The partners have agreed to a variety of joint ventures, as TheDetroitBureau.com reported last week.  (Click Here for more.) Among other things, the new Mercedes AMF platform used for the maker’s next-generation B-Class will serve as the foundation of a new Infiniti model based on the Etherea concept.  Meanwhile, Renault’s latest microcar “architecture,” developed for its little Twingo model , will be shared with future Smart models – including the Fortwo replacement.

In concept form, the Forvision introduces a variety of intriguing technologies for the microcar segment – many of them developed with the assistance of yet another partner, German chemical giant BASF.

Those include plastic wheels that weigh about 7.5 pounds less than even aluminum wheels.  A carbon-fiber epoxy resin was used for the passenger compartment and doors, meanwhile, reducing weight by 50% compared to steel and 30% versus aluminum.  But the composite material is even stronger than conventional materials and would improve passenger safety if put into production, Daimler officials suggested.

The Forvision was shown in battery car form, underscoring the brand’s interest in electric technology.  Some of the technologies shown in Frankfurt would prove particularly useful in the next-generation Smart Electric Drive, or ED.

For one thing, special insulation was used to reduce the power consumption of the Smart Forvision climate control system.  Using a heater in the winter can reduce range of battery-electric vehicles, like the current Smart ED or Nissan Leaf, by as much as half.

How much of the Forvision concept will carry over into production remains to be seen.  The lightweight resin materials will be a challenge considering their costs – which normally limit the use of composites to ultra-luxury vehicles – but manufacturers are pressing hard to drive down costs and improve manufacturability.  BMW is betting on that as it prepares to launch its own battery-based sub-brand with models like the i3 and i8.

The all-new Smart is expected to reach showrooms sometime next year.

That’s none too soon for the little brand.  Sales have been in a sharp slump, especially in the key U.S. market, despite rising fuel prices.  Since its American introduction in 2008, sales are off by more than two-thirds and analysts remain skeptical whether even an updated version of the Smart Fortwo will reverse that decline.


Why Daimler Dumped Penske Over Smart

But after years of dithering, can the Germans do better at selling microcars to Americans?

by on Feb.18, 2011

Roger Penske and his team - including Smart boss Jill Lajdziak - appear to have been blindsided by Daimler's announcement about the brand's future.

After dithering for years over the future of Smart, Daimler AG is about to take a make-it-or-break it gamble on the long-struggling brand.

In a surprise move, the German maker – which also builds the high-line Mercedes-Benz brand, announced it would pull Smart’s U.S. distribution operations away from the Detroit-based Penske Auto Group and operate the American franchise on its own.  Penske had been given the distributorship, in 2008, after years of delay by Daimler, which wasn’t sure how to sell small cars in a market that normally equates bigger with better.

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Roger Penske, chairman of the eponymous Penske Auto Group and one of the most respected figures in the U.S auto industry, says the German automaker’s decision to cancel its distribution agreement with PAG was shaped by a desire to integrate Smart more closely into the Mercedes-Benz marketing organization.

“Going forward, Smart is seen as an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz network,” Penske said, adding Mercedes-Benz also needs the efficiency credits generated by Smart to meet future fuel-economy standards in both Europe and North America.


Daimler Under Pressure as Costs Soar

Maker says it needs to pump cash into R&D.

by on Feb.18, 2011

Daimler's turnaround was "impressive," asserted CEO Dieter Zetsche, but some disagree.

Despite major league improvements in earnings during 2010, analysts fear Daimler AG’s turnaround is looking ragged around the edges. Analysts fear the company’s newly-announced earnings before interest and taxes fell well short of expectations and Daimler’s ability to control its costs is growing suspect.

Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler’s management board, said part of the reason for the poor shape of the so-called EBIT number was the big increase in spending on research and development.

Part of the reason for the rather dramatic rise in research and development spending is Daimler desire to maintain a strong position.  And a big part of that has to do with maintaining a strong presence in the Chinese market – which means honoring the Chinese government’s desire for electric-powered vehicles.

Up until recently, Mercedes-Benz has consistently turned up its nose at EVs and countered that it was a leader in diesel technology.  Not surprisingly it’s also been something of a laggard in battery technology.

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Daimler’s management, however, has undergone a conversion on the road to Beijing and is now scrambling to catch up to mollify China’s gatekeepers.

The price tag, though, is bound to increase dramatically in the near future.  And adding to the R&D budget pressures is the need to retool the long-struggling Smart car brand.  (Daimler moves to take the Smart brand’s U.S. franchise away from Penske Automotive. Click Here for details.)


Daimler Talking with Renault on Help with smart

Decision due in during first half of this year for small car linkup.

by on Jan.12, 2010

Not much small car expertise at Daimler since Mitsubishi's departure.

Daimler AG chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche said that the German automaker is holding talks with the French automaker Renault about collaborating on some future products and hoped to wrap up the discussions during the first half of 2010.

“We are in discussions with Renault about some cooperation,” he said. “The discussions are very straightforward,” he said.

Zetsche, however, declined to say whether the discussions centered specifically on enlisting Renault’s help to renew or expand the smart brand’s current lineup, which is now built around one model that first appeared in 1998.

However, earlier during the roundtable discussion with reporters, Zetsche said he had also acknowledged that Daimler was looking for a partner to help with smart.


Daimler, Renault to Cooperate on 4-Door Smart?

Expanded line-up much-needed, says source.

by on Sep.09, 2009

Could an extra pair of doors and a back seat expand the appeal of Smart's cars, the fortwo model shown here with CEO Dave Schembri?

Could an extra pair of doors and a back seat expand the appeal of Smart's cars, the fortwo model shown here with CEO Dave Schembri?

The French-based automaker, Smart, could be in for a much-needed expansion of its line-up, industry sources report, with the maker’s parent, Daimler AG now in talks with the French carmaker, Renault.

Initial reports out of Europe, quoting a source close to the negotiations, suggest that the partnership would likely result in the addition of a 4-door minicar to the current Smart line-up.  Right now, the Daimler subsidiary only produces variations of the two-door fortwo model.

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Smart has struggled for years to come up with a winning formula, despite the steady growth in the global small car market.  The company was originally conceived as a partnership between what was then Daimler-Benz and Swatch, though the Swiss-based watch company dropped out before production began on the original version of the fortwo.