USA: Smart to launch in US in 2006 with small SUV and 60 to 70 dealers - report

By just-auto.com editorial team | 10 December 2003

The Smart minicar brand will be launched in the US in 2006 with a small sport-utility vehicle, Paul Halata, president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz North America, told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The Smart SUV will be assembled in a DaimlerChrysler factory in Brazil, he reportedly added.

According to the WSJ, Smart will start recruiting dealers in the US and plans to have about 60 to 70 by the time it launches. Halata reportedly said DaimlerChrysler plans to sell about 60,000 Smart vehicles annually in the US once the brand is established and has a full range of models, including a coupe and a cabriolet. Smart will be aimed at younger buyers than the Mercedes brand, the report added.

"It was important for us to bring a different badge to go after Generations X and Y," Halata told the Wall Street Journal.

Smart, which will compete in the US with rival BMW's already established Mini brand, is part of a broader product offensive by Mercedes in the US Halata reportedly said.

According to the WSJ, between now and 2006, Mercedes plans to launch a redesigned M-class SUV, a new crossover sport wagon called the GST, a redesigned S-class sedan, a small crossover wagon called the CST and a large coupe to be called the CLS.

Halata indicated Mercedes doesn't have plans now to launch a small SUV to compete with BMW's X3 model, the report said.

The Wall Street Journal noted that, to the end of November, Mercedes' US sales were 196,930 vehicles, up 2.6%.