Quick! When you think of Comic Con — “the biggest and most exciting popular culture convention on the East Coast” — which automaker springs immediately to mind? Still thinking? Follow the jump for the answer you might not be expecting. Continue Reading →
When the Volkswagen CC debuted in 2009, it provided a tony, coupelike supplement to the mainstream Passat sedan. Upon first glance, I deemed it “the people’s car for beautiful people.” With the advent of the next-generation Passat, however, Volkswagen eschewed a full redesign of the CC for a mild reskin. Would this move threaten the CC’s success? Continue Reading →
“Eighteen thousand dollars?! That sounds like a lot of money for this car. Look at how small it is! The number in my head is more like twelve thousand. Who is going to buy this car, anyway?”
–a coworker who was intrigued enough by the iQ to ask about it and who wanted to look it over.
By Chris Haak
Smart USA at this point is such a non-factor in the US passenger-car market that it barely warrants its own article, but we’ll indulge anyway. To get you up to speed with what’s happened to this point, Daimler AG wasn’t sure that Smart would be a good fit in the US, so it held the cars out of the US market for years. Finally, in 2008, Daimler granted megadealer Roger Penske exclusive distribution rights to the Smart brand in the US, which meant only the Fortwo. Around that time, gas prices shot through the roof, the people who wanted urban runabouts all bought them, and the brand’s sales collapsed to little more than a rounding error in terms of overall US market share. How does 5,947 US sales in 2010 sound?
Smart USA hired former Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak as its president after Saturn closed its doors, and the company announced that it was entering into an agreement with Nissan to produce a larger, B-segment Smart (perhaps called a ForFour), which turned out to be little more than a rebadged Nissan Micra (sold overseas, not in the US).
By Chris Haak
Hot off this morning’s newswire is news that smart USA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nissan for the collaboration of a new B-segment (subcompact) five-passenger vehicle to be sold in the US under the smart brand. The new vehicle is expected to go on sale in about a year, in the fourth quarter of 2011. Full terms of the non-binding MOU were not disclosed, and all actions are dependent upon coming to definitive agreements on the transaction.
Daimler and Renault had previously entered into a fairly wide-ranging technology-sharing collaboration earlier this year, and this move is likely related to those efforts. The companies even exchanged equity stakes in one another to put some skin in the game, though this alliance is certainly more limited in scope than the Renault-Nissan alliance that shares CEO Carlos Ghosn. Roger Penske must have forgiven Mr. Ghosn for the latter’s inability to convince Renault’s board to sell rebadged Renaults through Penske’s dealer network as Saturns, since this deal is between the Penske-owned smart USA Distributor LLC and Nissan – not technically between Daimler and Nissan.
By Chris Haak
Struggling minicar maker Smart has announced plans to launch a 250-car electric vehicle test fleet in select metro markets this October. Cities that will be included in the test fleet are Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; Orlando, Florida; Indianapolis, Indiana; and along the Washington D.C. to Massachusetts of Interstate 95 corridor.
The cars will be 95 percent recyclable and will contain a Tesla Motors-sourced 16.5 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery. Smart USA will lease 80 percent of the cars (200 units) to businesses and 20 percent (50 units) to individuals in the aforementioned markets. According to the company, the cars will have an 83 mile range, and will fully charge in less than 8 hours. In Germany, it costs about $2.40 to fully charge the car, which is significantly cheaper than the cost of operating a gasoline vehicle.
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