The insatiable passion of US drivers for sports utility vehicles has encouraged German-American carmaker DaimlerChrysler to conceive a curious hybrid for launch in the US market in 2006.

The cutesy Smart minicar brand will spawn a SUV version for the US market with anticipated sales of around 60,000 units annually. According to Mercedes-Benz North America president/ceo Paul Halata, the Smart SUV will be assembled at a DaimlerChrysler plant in Brazil with a number of variants including a coupé and cabriolet.

It will target a market younger than the archetypal Mercedes-buyer. Says Halata: " It is important for us to bring a different badge to go after Generations X and Y."

He will start recruiting dealers and anticipates signing between sixty and seventy by the 2006 launch date. In the interim, Mercedes has other ambitious launch plans.

These include a redesigned M Class sports-utility vehicle, a new crossover sport wagon called the GST, a redesigned S Class sedan, a small crossover wagon called the CST, and a large coupé branded CLS.

The Mercedes marque is on target to sell more than 200,000 vehicles coast-to-coast in 2003 and at the end of November had notched US sales of 196,930 unit, up 2.6% year-on-year.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff