German automaker Daimler is more familiar with three-cylinder engines than you might think. In fact, it even sells one right here in the U.S.
If you guessed "Smart Fortwo", then award yourself a prize. The tiny two-seater has thrummed along on a three-pot for several years now, and for many previous years elsewhere after its original European launch in the late 1990s.
Not that there isn't more to learn, which is why Daimler and Ford engineers have recently been exchanging information on their small engines.
Automotive News Europe reports the two automakers have looked at each others' engine technology to help develop future engines on both sides.
Daimler has paid particular attention to Ford's three-cylinder turbocharged Ecoboost 1.0-liter, soon to be available on the U.S. market in the Fiesta.
Mercedes engineers have called the award-winning Ecoboost unit "very interesting and impressive", and that they've had some discussions with Ford engineers to learn more about the engine.
With the next generation Smart Fortwo on the way, the timing is particularly pertinent. Renault-Nissan will benefit too, the next generation of the Fortwo set to share a platform with Renault's next Twingo minicar.
Unlike the current Fortwo's Mitsubishi-derived engine, the next-gen version will use an engine co-developed with Renault. The French firm already uses three-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engines in some variants of its Clio subcompact.
The new unit will be a "conventional" three-cylinder turbocharged unit, and offered with a range of power outputs to suit the application. All models should fall comfortably beneath the 100 grams per kilometer measure of carbon dioxide emissions, used across Europe to determine vehicle taxation.
Ford will also benefit from the knowledge sharing, particularly concerning the cleanliness of its engines.
Mercedes has been developing a range of stratified lean-burn gasoline engines for use in its vehicles, which already meet September 2014's 'Euro 6' emissions standards.
The technology-sharing marks further collaboration between Daimler and Ford, following the recent announcement that the two companies, along with Renault-Nissan, were working together on fuel cell development.