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Mercedes-Benz courts Renault for new Smart model based on Twingo

Mon, 03 Aug 2009

Mercedes-Benz is set to join forces with Renault in a deal aimed at providing its underdeveloped Smart division with a contemporary-engineered front-engine/front-wheel-drive platform as the basis for a frugal new Forfour model.

The new Smart, due out in 2013, is planned to sit on a lightly modified version of the Renault Twingo’s underpinnings, complete with a 93.3-inch wheelbase.

Speaking about the new car over the weekend, a highly placed Mercedes-Benz official told AutoWeek: “It’s a key component in plans to grow the Smart brand. We’re looking to diverge into other potentially lucrative market segments, and not only in Europe but on a worldwide basis, including North America.”

In keeping with its name, the new Forfour was conceived to offer seating for up to four adults in a steel body that is expected to stretch to no more than 141.7 inches in length, 66.9 inches in width and 59 inches in height. As with the first-generation Forfour developed in cooperation with Mitsubishi and launched in 1998, the second-generation model also is set to boast a five-door hatchback design.

At this early stage, it is not known whether the deal between Mercedes-Benz and Renault will extend to engines and gearboxes, although German media reports suggest that the two are looking at deep integration between the new Forfour and the Twingo in a move aimed at extracting the sort of economies of scale achieved by rival carmakers PSA Peugeot-Citro

By Greg Kable