Nissan will craft small sedan for Smart -- but not for itself in U.S.

Nissan says its deal to build a five-seat sedan for U.S. sale by Daimler's Smart mini-car brand, announced this week, means that Nissan has no plans to bring a mini-car to the U.S. under its own nameplate.

"We're satisfied with Versa" as the company's entry-level car in the U.S., Larry Dominique, vice president in charge of product-planning for Nissan North America, tells Drive On.

The base Versa sedan, $9,990 (or $10,740 with $750 shipping charge), is the lowest-price new car in the U.S. Not the smallest, though. Smart ForTwo is the teensiest machine sold in the U.S. And within the Nissan lineup, the new Juke is slightly smaller.

Versa took a hit in the government's latest crash-test scores. It got just two stars in the new overall scoring, out of five. Of the 33 others rated at the same time, almost all got at least four stars overall.

The subcompact Nissan-made Smart is to be on sale within 15 months, the company says.

The pact with Smart is meant to give the brand a vehicle more attractive to American buyers. Never-very-strong U.S. sales of the ForTwo, its only current product, have been shrinking fast -- just 4,779 through September this year -- and U.S. distributor Penske Automotive Group had been arguing hard for an additional, larger Smart vehicle.

"We are faced with continuing customer demand for a Smart car with more seating capacity," explained Chairman Roger Penske. "Sales and service of the five-seater will be carried out exclusively by our approximately 75 Smart dealerships in the United States.

"Together with Nissan, we will bring to market a fully equipped small car for our customers and dealers in the USA. It will fit in well with the smart brand," Penske said.

In additional to Smart, German automaker Daimler's other brands include Mercedes-Benz luxury cars and Maybach (MY-bach) ultra luxury cars.