Is this the Smart city car heading to India?

10/02/2011 - 06:17 | ,  ,   | Kaustubh Shinde

Currently, the hottest growing segment in India is certainly the ‘Small Car’ segment. Right from the Koreans to the Japanese, everyone is busy building small cars for India. The segment itself grew by around 30% over the previous year which is absolutely phenomenal considering the volumes involved in this segment are very high.

All this fireworks has attracted the attention of the German czar Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes Benz, which now wants a part of all the action. Their contender will be a compact car from the Smart range.

The Germans are making a full blown entry with a small car that will be especially developed for India. In order to make sure they crack the holy grail of small car market, France’s Renault and Japan’s Nissan are hired to provide technical assistance to modify the basic design of Daimler’s Smart.

2012 Smart ForTwo+2

The first obvious modification will be more seats. The Smart car is sold as a 2 seater in the international market, which is absolutely futile with respect to the Indian scenario. Clearly, the new small car needs to have five seats and should be priced competitively against vehicles in the A2 category (Swift, Figo etc). A price tag of 4-5 lakhs would be ideal.

When asked about the small car, CEO of Mercedes Benz India Limited Peter Honegg -

We are thinking in that direction. Definitely, (the Smart) is a very interesting product. The compact car segment is very competitive. It’s far below all our Mercedes models, and is a segment we haven’t touched, but which most of the competitors are very serious about in India. The Smart brand name is not recognized in India yet. Looking at the quality of roads here, we will look very closely at the Smart for India. I have seen a possible prototype; it needs a lot of work

Of course, the small car cannot be brought through the traditional CKD route that Mercedes uses in India. It needs to be manufactured in India to make it price competitive. This shouldn’t be a problem because Mercedes currently uses only 60% of the Chakan plant. Mercedes Benz could work out an arrangement with Renault-Nissan to manufacture the car at Oragadam if needed.

Spied here, the new Smart ForTwo+2 has a completely reworked front fascia. The redesigned lamps are narrow and the thick lipped open mouth grille looks awkward. Keeping in mind this is only a clay model, we hope the car turns out much better.

The ForTwo+2 is a longer wheelbase variant of the ForTwo model, but the next gen ForTwo model will also grow in length and width. Like the Tata Nano, the layout will be rear-engined, rear-wheel drive. Three and four cylinder petrol and diesel engines (1.2-liter, 1.5-liter from Micra?) from Renault-Nissan will feature on the next gen Smart cars.

Expect the new range of Smart cars at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2011.

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