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Penske taps Nissan to build 4-door Smart
This is a sketch of a new car Nissan is developing for Smart USA.   (Daimler)
This is a sketch of a new car Nissan is developing for Smart USA. (Daimler)
Smart USA said today it has reached an agreement to sell a small car made by Nissan starting late next year so it can add a larger car to its lineup.

Smart is distributed exclusively by Penske Automotive Group in the United States through its subsidiary, Smart USA. The Smart brand is owned by Germany’s Daimler AG, and it currently sells just one car, the two-passenger Smart ForTwo minicar, in the United States.

“Now we have the good fortune to meet the needs of what our dealers and our consumers have told us they want,” said Smart USA President Jill Lajdziak. “They love the Smart brand. They would just like a little more seating capacity, and this vehicle allows us to meet the needs of the consumers.”

The new Smart car made by Nissan at an undisclosed location will be a gasoline-powered hatchback built by Nissan and sold by Smart USA as its 78 U.S. retail locations. The new subcompact vehicle will be larger than the Smart ForTwo.

“We are proud to be a partner with both Daimler and Nissan, two companies focused on bringing high-quality, fuel-efficient products to the U.S. market,” Roger Penske, chairman of Penske Automotive Group said in a statement.

The Smart ForTwo went on sale in the United States in 2008, and 24,622 of the minicars were sold that year as gas prices soared past $4 per gallon. Sales dropped to 14,595 in 2009 and 4,779 have been sold through September.

Nissan spokesman David Reuter said the car will be based on the Micra subcompact car Nissan sells in Asia and he added that Nissan will build the new car at one of Nissan’s four plants in North America.

Nissan builds its Sentra compact car and its Versa subcompact car at its assembly plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Reuter said Nissan isn’t concerned about the new Smart car competing with the Versa.

“We have a very successful product and we don’t feel this product will in any way diminish the success we have had with the Versa,” he said. Detroit Free Press

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