Smart Going All-Electric in North America – Here Next?

If you already drive a Smart electric car in Europe or North America, you are ahead of the game. We say that because Mercedes-Benz recently announced that the Smart brand would only be manufacturing electric cars for the North American market beginning with the 2017 model year. Which basically means from right now.

Mercedes-Benz USA, the Daimler AG subsidiary responsible for manufacturing Smart cars in the US, says the company’s plans for the American and Canadian markets are pretty much set in stone. They will no longer be offering petrol versions of the Fortwo and Fortwo convertibles. The Smart electric car will still be available to those who want it.

A Numbers Game

For Mercedes-Benz and Smart, it all comes down to a numbers game. Smart peaked in the US in 2014 when they sold more than 10,400 cars. Sales in 2016 barely eclipsed 6,000 units. What’s more, little about the Smart has changed since it was introduced in 1998. Without anything new to capture the attention of car buyers, dealers have been struggling to move their inventory.

Things have become so difficult for Smart in the US and Canada that dealers are starting to offer lease deals in the sub-$100 (USD) range. That’s pretty low by any standard, especially for a car with a base price of $14,650 (£11,731).

As for the Smart electric car that buyers will be looking at in North America, it will feature a three-phase synchronous engine boasting 80hp and an effective range of up to 80 miles per charge. The starting price is expected to be somewhere around $25,000 (£20,200).

The Future of Smart in Europe

The Mercedes-Benz decision to stop producing petrol Smart cars in North America should be of some concern here. While the company insists that their plans will not affect any other markets, what happens across the Pond has a bad habit of migrating to Europe. Smart car enthusiasts should keep an eye on how things go in the US and Canada over the next model year or so.

If sales of Smart cars don’t pick up in the UK, France and Germany, it is entirely possible that Mercedes-Benz will opt to halt production of petrol versions in favour of producing only the Smart electric car. That’s not necessarily a bad thing from the standpoint of reducing emissions and saving on fuel, but any such decision will once and for all relegate the Smart car to urban driving only.

When the Smart concept was first introduced back in the mid-1990s, the whole idea was to produce a city car that used as little fuel as possible while making the best use of narrow urban streets. Smart and its eventual parent companies would ultimately succeed in that goal. Unfortunately, their success has not translated into sales. As great as the Smart car is for city driving, there just doesn’t seem to be a worldwide demand for a car built mainly for cities.

Sources:

  1. Auto News World – http://www.autoworldnews.com/articles/30549/20170216/mercedes-benz-confirmed-that-smart-will-stop-selling-gasoline-powered-models-in-the-united-states-and-canada.htm

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