The move is an effort to stem the losses from the Smart division that have marked the past eight years. CEO Dieter Zetsche has said the division will post a profit next year, and hopes the 2008 generation of Smart ForTwo will be the answer, as U.S. buyers scramble for fuel-efficient cars due to the cost of gas lingering around the $3 per gallon mark.
During a news conference in Detroit, Zetsche said, "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."
The vehicle is slightly more than 8 feet long, 5 feet high and weighs around 1,600 pounds. The Smart ForTwo comes standard with a 50 horsepower gasoline engine that gets an estimated 52 miles per gallon, and is expected to cost less than $15,000.
However, a number of obstacles still stand it its way, including consumer demand for price incentives, and the current exchange rate. The vehicle will also need to be imported from its point of manufacture in Hambach, France, which will drive up the cost.