The struggling Smart brand was set to get a potential savior this year with the introduction of a new four-door based on a Nissan platform. That, however, will not happen now, as part of a new agreement where Smart and Mercedes parent company Daimler has taken back distribution of its mini-car from the Penske Automotive Group.
There are two main reasons behind the change, the first is for simplicity's sake with the U.S. the only market in the world where Smart and Mercedes operate independently. The more important reason, however, is fuel economy, with Mercedes eager to bolster its CAFE numbers with the 41-mpg Smart fortwo.
After initial sales of 24,622 cars in 2008, Smart managed to move just 5,927 vehicles last year. While dropping the planned Nissan model does seem like a bad move, it shows signs of a long-term plan with Mercedes willing to deal with low sales in the short term in order to properly built up the Smart brand.
In the mean time, however, the future is bleak for Smart with 21 dealers set to loose their franchise rites, while the remaining 58 will be forced to soldier on with what is essentially one model (the ForTwo), as well as an ultra-niche market electric version of the car.
More: Nissan-Based Smart Car Axed as Mercedes Takes Back Mini-Car Brand from Penske