Facelift for the ForTwo

Change is com­ing for Benz’s baby brand Smart, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE baby brand in the Benz sta­ble is be­ing set for a re­birth. There will be two cars for two con­ti­nents. but only one is likely to make it to Aus­tralia.

‘‘There is a tie-up with Nis­san to build a car for the USA and an­other with Re­nault for Europe,’’ Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia spokesman David McCarthy says.

He is short on de­tail be­cause the fu­ture mod­els are still on the se­cret list, but ad­mits there are ru­mours that the Amer­i­can car will be a four-seater twinned with the new Nis­san Mi­cra, while the Euro­pean model will share with the next Re­nault Twingo.

‘‘We re­ally have noth­ing to say yet,’’ says McCarthy.

But it’s un­likely that Smart will ever grow to the multi-car line-up orig­i­nally planned for the brand.

At one time there were ForTwo, ForFour and Road­ster mod­els in show­rooms, with a com­pact SUV also in the plan­ning. Prices were too high and sales were too low – though the Brabus ForFour which sold at $40,000 still brings $30,000 for sec­ond­hand sales – to sus­tain a stand-alone brand.

In­stead, Benz cut the Smart line right back to the ForTwo and de­cided it would be used as an en­try to the Mercedes-Benz line-up. It would also be a way of spread­ing devel­op­ment costs and bring­ing an emis­sions credit from the baby cars to ben­e­fit the whole Daim­ler line-up.

While the ForTwo is cer­tain for Aus­tralia there is also the pos­si­bil­ity of elec­tric scoot­ers un­der the Smart brand, fol­low­ing a two-wheeled pre­view at the Paris Mo­tor Show last month.

‘‘It gives a clue. We’ve got to find some­one to build it,’’ McCarthy says.

While the fu­ture cars are some way away, the ex­ist­ing Smart ForTwo is head­ing for a ma­jor makeover, in­clud­ing smoother body­work and day­time run­ning lamps.

It will ar­rive in Aus­tralia early next year fol­low­ing a pre­view last month in Ger­many.

‘‘We will have the ForTwo in the first quar­ter. It should be Fe­bru­ary,’’ says McCarthy.

But, as Smart is be­ing re­newed, MercedesBenz has axed the baby A-Class in Aus­tralia.

‘‘It’s no longer part of the cat­a­logue. But there will be an­other A-Class and it will re­turn,’’ McCarthy says. ‘‘We de­cided to con­cen­trate on the B-Class and our de­ci­sion has been vindi­cated by the sales.

‘‘Last month it led its class in the small seg­ment, with 237 sales against the Audi A3 at 137, and we’ve out­sold the Mini and 1 BMW Se­ries year to date. B-class sales are sig­nif­i­cantly higher to­day than A and B were to­gether.’’

Makeover: the ex­ist­ing Smart ForTwo is get­ting a new look, in­clud­ing smoother body­work and day­time run­ning lamps.

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