With gasoline prices on the rise again, some U.S. consumers can't wait for DaimlerChrysler to import its cute little Smart commuter car.
Now if only DaimlerChrysler can figure out what it's going to do with Smart.
You see Smarts all over Europe, and a nonauthorized distributor is peddling gray-market cars in the United States.
But the future of Smart is uncertain, even in Europe. DaimlerChrysler's board of management, hoping to salvage something, has taken seemingly disparate actions. Those actions include putting the division on the block, then taking it off the market.
It's tough to sort out.
All of which means that plans to export Smart cars to the United States have been in on-again, off-again limbo.
In the latest twist, the automaker decided to stop building the four-passenger ForFour model. That leaves just the original two-passenger ForTwo.
And that changes the business model.
When Smart was launched in Europe, dealers in Germany invested in separate showrooms called Smart Centers, sometimes on the same property as a Mercedes-Benz dealership. That idea has failed. Standalone Smart dealerships in Germany are now closing.
From now on, Smarts will be sold as a brand within a brand in Mercedes-Benz dealerships. That could prove to be a workable plan for the United States, too.
After all, it's how BMW sells the Mini here, how Toyota sells Scion and how Mercedes already sells the Smart in Canada.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]