It is rumoured that DaimlerChrysler may not replace the Mercedes-Benz A-class with a new model, when a change is due in 2004.

DaimlerChrysler's segment-busting small car is selling well, but its profitability is disappointing. Furthermore, the A-class will face strong competition in the future from new models inside DCX, including a four-seat Smart to be developed on a Mitsubishi car platform.

DaimlerChrysler's small-car strategy is expected to be decided at a management board meeting later this month. Presentations on future product plans will be made by Jürgen Hubbert, head of Mercedes-Benz and Smart; James Holden, head of Chrysler brands; and Dieter Zetsche, who runs the DCX's commercial vehicles business.

The board is expected to give the go-ahead to the Smart roadster, which first appeared at the September 1999 Frankfurt auto show. The car is highly regarded by Chairman Jürgen Schrempp.

Schrempp recently said that a four-seat Smart would be produced on a Mitsubishi platform, with both Smart and Mitsubishi to be jointly produced at the NedCar factory in Born, the Netherlands.

The board is expected to officially approve these projects at the June meeting. But the most fundamental issue to be discussed will be the A-class successor, sources say.

The future four-seat/four-door Smart could be slightly bigger than the current A-class. An overall length of just below 3700mm is expected - about 100mm longer than the A-class and only 100mm shorter than A-XL, the long wheelbase A-class derivative due next spring.

The A-class also will be under pressure from the family version of the Vaneo, a light-commercial vehicle based on an extended A-class platform and due for launch in 2002.