Smart Move? DaimlerChrysler's small-car brand may be delayed, killed for U.S. DIANA T. KURYLKO | Automotive News Posted Date: 1/17/05 DETROIT -- Despite a brave showing at the Detroit auto show, the Smart brand may not even come to the United States after all. Eckhard Cordes, the new head of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, has frozen ForMore development. The small SUV was to have been the lone Smart vehicle at launch in the United States in September 2006, with other vehicles to be added in 2007. Cordes says Smart may come to the United States even if the small SUV is axed. But that's only one of his four possible scenarios for the United States. One of those options: Cancel plans for the U.S. launch. More important than entering new countries such as the United States and China, Cordes says, is making Smart profitable in the 36 markets where it's already sold. The 6-year-old brand, launched in Europe with the tiny two-seat City Coupe, has been a money-loser for parent DaimlerChrysler AG. "I am convinced to fix Smart we have to make sure we operate Smart on a reasonable profitability level in the 36 countries," Cordes says. "If we say, 'Yes, we can do that,' then I see some potential, and then the U.S. might be a market, and China might be another one. But first things first -- make sure the core operations are doing OK." Smart is a top priority for Cordes, 54, who took over as head at Mercedes-Benz car group on Oct. 1. Cordes replaced Juergen Hubbert, who is retiring. Cordes previously headed the commercial vehicles division. At the end of 2004, Cordes ordered a review of the ailing Smart division. Smart's lineup consists of the original two-seater, renamed ForTwo; the Roadster; and a four-seat, five-door hatchback called the ForFour. Neither the ForTwo nor the ForFour meets U.S. emissions standards. Cordes says there are four possibilities for the United States. 1. Cancel plans to come. 2. Launch Smart with the ForMore as planned. 3. Bring the ForMore and then the ForTwo. 4. Build the ForTwo and ForFour to meet U.S. standards. He would not say which scenario he favors. "What drives me is profit," he said. "At the end of the day, if you want to survive, you must be profitable. You can't afford to have any hobbies." Cordes says the Smart review, which began at the end of last year, will last at least three months, but not a year: "We have told our suppliers. They know we will get back to them. For us, this is a very important decision. If it takes four weeks more, then it takes four weeks more." Despite the freeze, U.S. executives of Mercedes-Benz and Smart put on a brave face as more than a dozen Smarts buzzed around Detroit streets during the auto show. Mercedes-Benz USA has been seeking as many as 80 U.S. dealerships. David Schembri, vice president of Smart USA, and Scott Keogh, general manager of Smart USA, headed the effort. In September, Schembri said Smart would begin signing dealers in the first quarter of this year. "We want to have a close look to what reaction we get in the United States and in the Midwest," says Paul Halata, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA LLC. "We are waiting to tell our colleagues in Stuttgart what is coming out of Detroit." Smart had its first stand at the Detroit show. The current lineup was there, but the expected ForMore concept was a no-show. Halata says work to line up U.S. Smart dealerships continues: "We will be analyzing the data over the next months and wait for our activities to see what comes out of this Detroit activity."