Smart ForTwo Now Available in Any Color You Want

What’s it going to take to revive sales of the Smart ForTwo?

The 2008 launch of the Smart ForTwo—the only conventional gas-powered car rated above 40 MPG on the highway—was well timed for rising gas prices. When gas hit $4 a gallon in June 2008, dealerships had a hard time keeping up with the demand for the Smart car, which represented an innovative fuel-efficient strategy for urban mobility.

Two years later, it’s different story. Smart’s U.S. sales dropped to 577 cars in June, down 48 percent from June 2009. For the first six months, sales fell 61 percent to 3,349 cars.

In an attempt to get its mojo back, Smart USA is now offering a nifty gimmick: the small two-seater can be painted any color you like. “Smart Expressions builds on the innovative smart brand and empowers owners to be creative with their vehicle through a number of personalization choices,” said Jill Lajdziak, president, Smart USA.

Customers can choose from 93 colors or custom-match the car to any color under the sun. Smart also offers 35 designs of laminated vinyl wraps in either matte or glossy. The wraps cost $1,350 plus $300 installation. The program is made possible because the six exterior color body panels can be swapped out at a dealership in about 90 minutes.

The sticker price for the Smart ForTwo, which is available in five trim levels, ranges from $12,000 to $21,000.

Personalization or Electrification?

Sagging sales of the Smart ForTwo have not been helped by persistent complaints that the car’s “automatic manual” transmission bogs down when shifting—making for inconsistent and unpredictable acceleration. The new color options will not solve that problem, not will it alter the economics of the two-seater’s relatively limited functionality and relatively modest fuel economy numbers, considering the car’s diminutive size.

On the other hand, the creation of an electric version of the iconic Smart car—already available in Europe and coming to the U.S. in 2012—could work wonders for the car’s drivability and dramatically shift its value proposition. The current clunky transmission would be replaced with a smooth electric drive. Yes, the cost of the Smart ED would be higher than the gas version, but the lower cost of ownership of running on electric fuel would offer a compelling payback. The small platform is ideally suited to an electric powertrain, which would only enhance the brand’s savvy image of innovative 21st century mobility.

Besides, can you imagine the electricity-themed anti-oil wrap designs that Smart could offer on the Smart ED?

To see a gallery of paint colors and wrap designs for the gas version, visit www.smartusa.com/smartexpressions.


  • Charles

    I do not “Get” the Smart. It is small and that is its best feature? A Honda Insight will cost you about $4000 more, but has more room, better MPG and is better in just about every way (Smart has better head lights and is easier to enter according to Consumer Reports). That is really damming the Smart with faint praise. The Insight is not much of a car, but it beats the hell out of the Smart.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Electrification would probably help the brand a bit – but only if it had reasonable performance. Unfortunately, the Smart ED is dammed from the start with it’s name and being barely freeway legal and definitely NOT freeway safe should completely torpedo it from being successful for the mass market.
    This, of course, is likely the main objective by Daimler Benz so it won’t threaten their Mercedes line.

  • Carl

    Ahh, nobody mentioned, it’s just a crappy car and should die a natural death.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Carl,
    I think that is what I was saying. I was just trying to be as positive as I could ;-)

  • Scott Z

    Crappy car! No it’s actually very nice. Try drving one. I also disagree with the whole safty thing. I drive a motorcycle when I can. Does that make my motorcycle crap? How about those people motoring around in old classic cars? I agree that I can think of many models I would choose before it but that does not make it a bad car. One of the main selling points is the small size. If you don’t need more it can be the perfect car. Cartainly you can consider it the perfect comuter car. Also for people trying to have less impact on the planet it is one of the cars that uses the least matirials to build. To each his/her own I always say.

  • Carl

    Scott Z,
    I don’t live my life by what they say but when Consumers reports says that the Smart car is the worst car in every category, that they have ever tested……
    Ya got to listen.
    That car fails on so many levels, it’s a Stupid Car

    I understand that some people choose to drive old, unreliable, slow, dangerous, cramped or just plain ugly cars. That’s personal freedom. That’s why I ride a motorcycle, drive a Miata AND a full sized pickup truck.

  • FamilyGuy

    I went to Paris in 2002 and the Smart Car was everywhere. Tiny, little streets, even smaller parking spaces and the Smart Car seemed like great fit. As a matter of a fact, about the largest car that I saw was an occasional Accord. Otherwise, all of the cars were tiny. Great for the confines of an old city like Paris. So, they jumped across the Pond when gas prices were high and now sales are sluggish with gas being low. Is anyone surprised by this? When I saw that car in Paris, I never thought it would sell here in America because of its size (compared to all of the SUV’s on the roads around here).

    Hey, you think it’s ugly or not safe. Don’t pay it. Pretty simple. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

  • Dom

    They should have brought the diesel version with a proper manual transmission. Much better MPG. Canada got that version for awhile I believe…

  • JT

    Wait, they still sell Smart cars here? I haven’t seen any advertising from them in like a year or two. Like most Americans I assumed they folded up when gas prices went back down and stayed down.

  • alice1234

    hi, I think that is what I was saying. I was just trying to be as positive as I could ;-)

  • Chill

    Scott Z has it right. Maybe Smart isn’t for you. I’ve driven one and appreciate how intelligently designed it is. Once you know the wisdom of the design you see why it’s quite appropriately named. The transmission fools you, until you realize it’s a manual that operates without a clutch. So drive it like a manual. And the roll cage design makes it safer than something like 12 out of 13 SUVs in terms of roof strength, which maybe isn’t all that big a deal unless you have an SUV, I mean, a car prone to rolling over. It may not be all the car you need for all the time, but it makes sense more sense when you know more about it.

  • getagrip42

    @Charles: Wow, I didn’t realize an Insight was only $18K. Not… Compared with the mid-level smart at $14K, the base Inisght LX is $6K more and the LX doesn’t include standard safety items like ESP (stability control) or traction control which are standard even on the $12K base model smart. Of course, the Insight offers other features like more seats if you need them, but since I average over 43 MPG (see Fuelly.com) on my 70 mile a day commute, my $14K smart works for me and my wife just fine. I have a truck for the other 5% of the time I need to haul something or more than 2 people. Oh, and the transmission is just fine for anyone who knows anything about a manual. Since it is a manual sans the clutch, I drive it in manual mode 99% of the time and can shift as smooth as any other manual transmission car I’ve owned. It’s different, but by no means a showstopper.