BIRMINGHAM, England -- Daimler’s Smart subsidiary will not expand its lineup with an SUV/crossover in the near future, the brand's CEO, Annette Winkler, said.
Speculation that Smart could add an SUV gained momentum after Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the Shanghai auto show in April that Smart would look at the crossover segment if it decided to expand the brand's range.
Currently Smart sells the two-seat ForTwo globally and the ForFour four-seat model in Europe.
“We are not planning an SUV,” Winkler said at the Automotive News Europe Congress here on Wednesday. “But never say never.”
When asked whether Smart could build a roadster, Winkler said “certainly not” since the segment was too small for such a derivative to make money.
Smart halted production of its roadster in 2005 and its first-generation four-seat model a year later due to slow sales. Plans for an SUV called the ForMore were shelved in 2006.
Smart relaunched the new ForFour in November. The rear-engine model shares its underpinnings with the Renault Twingo and both cars are built in Renault's factory in Slovenia.
Winkler said making the ForFour a joint project with Renault had created "enormous economies of scale." She said the ForFour was a more premium offering than the Twingo because it has better interior materials.
Smart's global sales were up 29 percent to 50,835 through May, boosted by an updated ForTwo and the ForFour, Daimler said on June 8.
Through April, Smart sold 14,076 ForFour models in Europe, according to JATO Dynamics market researchers. European sales of the ForTwo were 18,135 in the same period, down 17 percent.
Daimler has said it expects “significant” volume growth at Smart this year, driven in part by the addition of new features such as an optional Twinamic six-speed dual clutch transmission, unusual for the city car segment. This replaces Smart's much-maligned automated manual transmission that prioritized fuel economy over finesse and comfort when shifting.
The Twinamic transmission has been an important driver of sales in Europe, Winkler told Automotive News Europe on the sidelines of the conference. “That’s why we waited to launch the new ForTwo in the U.S. and China since premium customers want the level of comfort offered by Twinamic.”
The updated ForTwo will go on sale in the U.S. in the fall and launches in China in August. China has overtaken Italy to become Smart's second-largest market after Germany with about 18,000 Smarts sold in China last year.
The ForFour is not planned for sale in the U.S.