There is something afoot in the factories that produce Smart cars. That something is an aggressive conversion that is preparing the plants to manufacture nothing but electric vehicles beginning in 2019. With the announcement of the plan to go all-electric in 2019, Smart has decided to cross a line they may not be able to cross back.
A big question for us is whether Smart car service costs will go up as a result of the all-electric decision. We wonder because Smart did not make the list of the cheapest electric cars to own for 2017. That list, based on the total cost of ownership, was very favourable to a lot of Smart’s competitors.
For the record, the top cars on that list were:
- Citroen C-Zero hatchback
- Peugeot Ion hatchback
- Mitsubishi I-MiEV
- Volkswagen e-up! Hatchback
- Hyundai Ioniq hatchback
- Renault Zoe hatchback
- Tesla Model S hatchback
- Tesla Model X hatchback/SUV
As surprising as it is that Smart did not make the list, it is even more surprising that two Tesla models did. Remember, we are talking the total cost of ownership – which includes everything from fuel to insurance and service costs.
We Expect Smart to Be Cheap
What has people worried is the fact that they expect Smart to be cheap. The whole concept of the Smart car is one that is affordable enough to own and operate that the average urban dweller can afford one. In fact, Smart has already said it is resisting the temptation to put a longer-range battery in both the Fortwo and Forfour models because the company does not want to increase the retail price of either car.
Smart CEO Annette Winkler said in the summer of 2017 that “price is more important than range for our buyers. If we put in a bigger-capacity battery, the price goes up.”
Instinct says that Smart car service costs will not be any more when the 2019 EVs start rolling off the assembly line. Assuming the company sticks with the same design for things like wheels, brakes, and windscreens, there shouldn’t be a problem there. But the biggest cost of electric vehicles are their batteries and motors.
It is completely reasonable to expect that, pound-for-pound, a 2019 Fortwo will come with higher service costs than a 2016 or 2017 model – just due to the batteries alone. So the real question is how Smart car service costs compare to other EVs in the same class. This is where we hope Smart will come out on top.
When you compare Smart to other petrol vehicles in the same class, repair costs are either lower or in the same general range. The cars are designed that way. The goal of Smart has always been to be the cheapest city car on the market. So if they hold to that model, they should be among the cheapest EVs to maintain a couple of years from now. Time will certainly tell.