Renault Helps Mercedes On New Smart, Plans Return To U.S.

August 4, 2009
Renault Twingo

Renault Twingo

No one can deny that French automaker Renault is on the move these days. In addition to its work with Nissan on electric vehicles, the company is in talks with Mercedes-Benz to develop a new model for Mercedes' Smart brand. And here in the U.S., the company is chatting with Roger Penske about selling Renault-badged vehicles on American lots alongside Saturn automobiles -- automobiles that Renault's Samsung subsidiary may begin producing after General Motors pulls the plug in 2011.

Obviously, no one should underestimate the power of good, French coffee.

On the Smart front, Mercedes is hoping to expand Smart's seriously limited (read: one model) line-up by partnering with Renault to develop a new four-seater, based on the popular Renault Twingo. This would be one of several new vehicles that Mercedes plans to add to the Smart brand, including a curious three-seater, the patent for which has recently appeared online. You might recall that Smart once produced a four-seat model -- called, of course, the Smart ForFour -- but it tanked in the marketplace and was promptly pulled.

There are no official details about the new Smart model, but sources speculate the alliance between Mercedes and Renault will be more substantial than the one recently announced between Aston Martin and Toyota, in which the British automaker will provide luxury detailing to the Toyota iQ, but no powertrain upgrades. Rumors about the Smart four-seater include diesel options, as well as plug-in electric technology, stemming from Renault's knowledge of EVs via the aforementioned Nissan partnership. Additional info about the Mercedes/Renault arrangement may be discussed in limited detail by Mercedes' Dieter Zetsche at the upcoming Frankfurt Auto Show.

In other news, Renault is also in talks with American auto dealer Roger Penske, who's currently in the process of purchasing the Saturn brand from General Motors. Not only is Penske interested in having Renault's Korean arm, Samsung, manufacture Saturns in the future (after they stop rolling off the GM line in 2011), but his dealerships may also sell Renault-badged vehicles alongside them. These discussions are very, very preliminary, but we wouldn't be surprised if they firmed up in the near future.

[AutoNews, sub req'd; Autocar]

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