Daimler AG member of the board of management Dr. Thomas Weber confirmed the new compact cars will “change [generations] during the course of this year” while adding that “we will launch two vehicles, both towards the end of this year.”
Asked whether that means a Paris debut for the new Smart models, Weber replied: “I would say it could be, because if you look around it will not take in Frankfurt motor show because it was last year, we will not unveil this car in China, not in New York, so the remaining possibilities are shrinking…”
The next generation Smart models will continue a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive model, Weber confirmed, which necessitated the just-released Renault Twingo with which it is twinned to conform to the Smart layout.
“Smart is close to a design icon, it is something really specific, so the Smart powertrain set-up and architecture we will keep and the rest will be more modern, more up to date, so stay tuned.”
The shared program with Renault, Weber admits, was a reason for the delay releasing a new generation Smart.
“It would be okay that we did this change earlier, but based on our partnership [with Renault] we merged the two design cycles and decided to go common,” he said.
The outgoing second generation Smart is seven years old, having launched in 2007, yet Weber insists the model is “still successful” having notched up 100,000 sales globally last year, and, he adds, “this is shortly before this generation will come to an end”.
But success is something the Smart has not enjoyed in Australia, with annual sales trickling to 126 units last year, down from 142 in 2012. Criticised for being too expensive, Weber acknowleged the new Smart could be in for pricing realignment in our market.
“Of course we will realign the overall setup of this vehicle in all markets, but still the Smart will be premium in this specific segment,” he said.
“It’s what Smart stands for in the beginning. We are not shooting for the cheapest vehicle in the marketplace. If you do something specific and the volume is small [in Australia], the remaining consequences are higher price.”
Smart Australia senior corporate communications manager David McCarthy added, however, that “if we want to sell more in that price bracket, the price needs to more accurately reflect the segment".
“[Smart] needs to be in the middle of the segment, not at the top of the segment.
“Whether we can do that is another question. It’s a long way from being a done deal as to where we can position that car. The discussions will be taking place soon,” he said.
The Smart ForTwo is currently running out at $18,990 driveaway.