DaimlerChrysler AG plays to both extremes at the 2007 North American International Auto Show by taking the wraps off a 4-door Mercedes-Benz convertible and the Smart Fortwo minicar.

The Fortwo will arrive in U.S. showrooms during first-quarter 2008, the auto maker says in a statement. The second generation of a car launched in Europe eight years ago, it promises greater comfort, more agility and additional safety features, DaimlerChrysler says.

Original plans called for a 2006 U.S. market introduction, but heavy losses at Smart prompted a restructuring initiative that caused a delay. The auto maker also killed production of the 4-passenger Forfour.

The Fortwo’s unveiling next month in Detroit will mark the first time it has been shown in the U.S. The first-generation vehicle currently is on sale in Canada and Europe.

To date, the auto maker lays claim to more than 770,000 sales.

Roger Penske’s United Auto Group will distribute the car in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz uses the Detroit show to unveil the Concept Ocean Drive 4-door convertible. Based on the 12-cyl. Mercedes-Benz S600, it is “not just a pure design exercise,” the auto maker says in a statement.

Among its practical innovations is “Airscarf,” a neck-level heating system that can extend the top-down season.

The Ocean Drive’s debut will mark the second consecutive year Detroit has hosted a 4-door convertible unveiling. American Specialty Cars Inc. created a stir last year with its ragtop treatment of a Chrysler 300.

The last U.S. production-model 4-door convertible was the Lincoln Continental, which was discontinued in 1967.

emayne@wardsauto.com