Daimler seeks to jumpstart Smart with revamped ForTwo, new 4-seat model

Smart CEO Annette Winkler, left, and Daimler Chief Dieter Zetsche, right, present the redesigned ForTwo, left, and Smart ForFour in Berlin today. Photo credit: REUTERS

BERLIN -- Daimler's Smart division today took the wraps off a four-seat model that it hopes will give the small-car brand a more solid foundation.

The Smart ForFour was unveiled here today alongside the latest version of the ForTwo two-seater, currently the brand’s only model.

The revamped ForTwo will arrive in U.S. showrooms in fall 2015.

The ForFour is the first Smart four-seater since the brand axed a previous ForFour after just two years of disappointing sales.

The ForFour and ForTwo will go on sale in Europe starting in November. Daimler has no current plans to sell the ForFour in the United States because it isn't sure if there is a big enough market to warrant the cost of homologation.

Daimler is counting on the ForFour to boost Smart's volume and make the brand more profitable. Smart's global sales fell 10 percent to 46,816 in first half.

In the United States, Smart's first-half sales rose 4 percent to 4,647 vehicles.

Daimler said it expects one-third of Smart sales to be ForFour models.

The previous-generation ForFour was based on the Mistubishi Colt. Daimler has teamed up with Renault for the new ForFour to save development costs.

The new Smart shares its rear-wheel-drive underpinnings with the Renault Twingo. Both minicars will be built at Renault's factory in Slovenia. The ForTwo will continue to be built at Smart's factory in Hambach, France.

The revamped ForTwo will arrive in Smart's U.S. showrooms in fall 2015. Photo credit: REUTERS

Zetsche said: "We stopped the bleeding at Smart with the restructuring six or seven years ago, and now we want to generate value with the new generation. That’s why we engaged in this cooperation with Renault which gave us the chance to share development costs and investment."

The two Smarts have a similar design. The ForFour's front and rear overhangs are just as short as on the ForTwo. The car's roofline slopes downward toward the rear in coupe style.

Three-cylinder engines

The cars will be offered with either a 71-hp, 1.0-liter naturally aspirated gasoline engine or a 90-hp, 900cc turbocharged gasoline engine. Both are three-cylinder units. A few months after the market launch, an entry-level gasoline engine rated at 60 hp will extend the powertrain range. The Smarts also will offer either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The ForFour is the same width and height as the ForTwo but it is 137.4 inches long while the ForTwo is 105.9 inches long. The ForFour's rear seat backrests can be folded down to produce a cargo volume of up to 975 liters.

The new ForTwo has a larger grille than the current model.

Smart brand chief Annette Winkler said the ForFour will help to retain Smart customers as well as win new buyers.

"The most frequent reason people don’t pick the ForTwo is because it only has two seats," Winkler told Automotive News Europe at the Geneva auto show in March. "A number of our customers want to stay with the brand and they said they would if we had a four-seat vehicle."

You can reach Christiaan Hetzner at christiaan.hetzner@gmail.com

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