Late last year, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn was pondering requests to shore up two separate brands -- Daimler's Smart and General Motors' Saturn.
He said yes to one and no to the other. But Ghosn says it was never an "either/or" situation.
Working with Smart made sense, and "Saturn was rejected because of very bad economics," he said.
Ghosn confirmed that both plans were in front of him at the same time. In the end, Renault rejected the idea of developing a new product line for Saturn after its separation from GM.
"There was no interference between the two projects," he said. "It didn't make sense for Renault. When you took a look at the bottom line on this project, it was mediocre."
This month Ghosn and Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche announced a sweeping global partnership to develop and share small cars, engines, technologies and other products -- including new cars for Smart retailers. Those cars will be built in Europe and exported to the United States.
Either way, a key beneficiary of Ghosn's decision would have been U.S. retail magnate Roger Penske.
Penske is the independent distributor of Smart in the United States. And, until last September, he also was planning to acquire and distribute the Saturn brand -- if Ghosn would manufacture the cars.