plans to start selling its tiny and fuel-efficient Smart brand in the U.S., the world's biggest car market, beginning in 2008.
Word of the plan had been circulating in media reports for several days, but the German-American automaker confirmed the decision Wednesday. The car will be what DaimlerChrysler referred to as a successor to the current Smart fourtwo.
Bumper-to-bumper, the Smart fourtwo sold in the U.K. is about 8.2 feet long. By comparison, the
Beetle is around 13.4 feet long, the
Focus three-door hatchback is roughly 14 feet long, and a
Civic is about 14.5 feet in length.
The Smart fourtwo's three-cylinder engine produces 50 to 74 base horsepower, and the top speed is listed at 84 miles per hour, again using the British specifications. The fourtwo gets about 46 miles to the gallon during city driving, and around 69 miles to the gallon on the highway.
Three models of the two-seater will be sold, and vehicle retailer
will be responsible for awarding potential dealership contracts and developing and maintaining the sales network throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
"Following the success of the Smart fortwo in our first North American market, Canada, and the increasing demand for affordable and fuel efficient small cars in the U.S.A., we are now bringing this new kind of mobility to U.S. cities," Dieter Zetsche, chairman of DaimlerChrysler's management board, said in a statement. "The time has never been better for this -- and I am convinced that the Smart fortwo as an innovative, ecological and agile city car will soon become just as familiar a sight on the streets of New York, Miami or Seattle, as it is today in Rome, Berlin or Paris."
Since October 1998, more than 750,000 customers have bought the Smart fortwo, DaimlerChrysler said. Smarts are already sold in 36 other countries. The successor model will be launched in Europe next year before making its U.S. debut.