As MINI owners, we are in a unique position to weigh-in on the recent possibility of Mercedes owned Smart entering to the US market. Sure, they aren't as exciting to drive (except, possibly, the roadster) and sure, they aren't exactly as compatible to US tastes as even the diminutive MINI. Yet, they still do represent some of the values that the MINI holds dear.
However despite all of this US market talk, Mercedes' recent plans to bring a Smart SUV (ironic name?) to the US in 2007 have apparently been frozen. In fact, the economic sense of a Smart SUV (still doesn't sound right) being released while the rest of the line has yet to turn a profit seemed like a poor enough idea that Mercedes had all development ceased. Because of this, Autoweek gives us a brief overview in it's latest edition, of what has happened to Smart and what is possibly in store for the future. Here's an excerpt:
Despite a brave showing at the Detroit auto show, the Smart brand may not even come to the United States after all.
Eckhard Cordes, the new head of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, has frozen ForMore development. The small SUV was to have been the lone Smart vehicle at launch in the United States in September 2006, with other vehicles to be added in 2007.
Cordes says Smart may come to the United States even if the small SUV is axed. But that's only one of his four possible scenarios for the United States. One of those options: Cancel plans for the U.S. launch.
More important than entering new countries such as the United States and China, Cordes says, is making Smart profitable in the 36 markets where it's already sold. The 6-year-old brand, launched in Europe with the tiny two-seat City Coupe, has been a money-loser for parent DaimlerChrysler AG.
“I am convinced to fix Smart we have to make sure we operate Smart on a reasonable profitability level in the 36 countries,” Cordes says. “If we say, 'Yes, we can do that,' then I see some potential, and then the U.S. might be a market, and China might be another one. But first things first — make sure the core operations are doing OK.”
…He would not say which scenario he favors. “What drives me is profit,” he said. “At the end of the day, if you want to survive, you must be profitable. You can't afford to have any hobbies.”
So, let's hear it. As MINI enthusiasts, do you think Smart has a chance in the US or do you think they'd save a lot of time and money if they just kept out of the market entirely?
[ Smart Move? (Autoweek) ]