DETROIT -- Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zetsche said discussions with French automaker Renault SA will be completed by mid-year, but he would not say whether the talks concern cooperation on future Smart cars as has been reported.
Zetsche did say that developing the next-generation two-seat minicar and a second vehicle for Smart depends on finding a partner. He said Smart needs higher volume and a better cost base and that the lineup must expand beyond one model.
Zetsche said a decision on Smart will be reached in the second half of the year.
According to media reports, Germany's Daimler and Renault have been talking about developing a rear-drive platform for the next-generation Smart ForTwo as well as a four-seat car for the brand.
Smart once offered a four-seat vehicle, the ForFour, which was the result of a joint venture between Daimler and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. But the slow-selling model was discontinued after Daimler sold its minority stake in Mitsubishi.
Zetsche said about 1,000 Smart electric cars will be built this year. Of those, 200 will be marketed in the United States, but they will be offered only through leases, he said. By 2012, Smart expects production of the electric version production to reach “five digits.”
Zetsche also hinted that the Mercedes Benz C-class range could be expanded now that the CLK coupe and convertible have been moved from the C-class platform onto the larger E-class platform.