Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz USA hope to revive Smart cars by making it an electric-vehicle only brand.
For the U.S. and Canada markets only, the parent company will stop selling the gasoline-powered Smart ForTwo coupe and convertible later this year. The Smart lineup will consist exclusively of the all-electric Smart electric-drive coupe and cabrio.
Low-priced gasoline has strengthened demand for SUVs, crossovers, and pickups at the expense of small cars. Mercedes-Benz USA executives told U.S. dealers about the decision and why it was made on a conference call and in a letter sent yesterday.
“Developments within the micro-car segment present some challenges for the current Smart product portfolio,” Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, told dealers in the letter, which was obtained by Automotive News. “Therefore, with the launch of the fourth-generation Smart ForTwo electric drive this summer, the Smart lineup will consist exclusively of the zero-emissions Smart electric-drive coupe and cabrio in the U.S. and Canada.”
The gasoline-powered Smart ForTwo will be discontinued after the 2017 model year. A redesigned version of the gasoline-powered coupe went on sale in late 2015, with the redesigned convertible following in 2016.
Smart sales have been falling in the past two years after reaching a U.S. highpoint of 10,453 units sold in 2014. That dropped down to 6,211 vehicles sold in the U.S. during 2016.
Automakers are rethinking how EVs are marketed as Tesla and BYD have gained strength in the U.S. and overseas. Daimler is preparing to roll out another electric sub-brand, which was named EQ last fall.
InsideEVs just reported that during his speech last month at the J.D. Power Automotive Summit in New Orleans, Audi of America President Scott Keogh made a radical prediction about it.
“You’re going to be looking at a marketplace in the next seven, eight, nine, 10 years where for 30 or 40 some brands their entire business is going to be battery-electric vehicles,” he said.
Mercedes-Benz USA hasn’t made a prediction on what it expects for sales of Smart ForTwo electric-drive models. At their peak, the electric vehicles made up 30 percent of the brand’s annual sales, Mercedes-Benz spokesman Rob Moran said
Moran said that its unclear which of the 85 U.S. dealers in the Smart network will support the transition to electric-only vehicles.
During the Paris Motor Show, Smart revealed a next-generation platform that will, for the first time, be extended over to the cabrio and Smart ForFour models.
The U.S. will see the new Smart ForTwo coupe with electric drive starting in the spring of 2017, and the Smart ForTwo cabriolet variation will show up soon after in the summer. However, the Smart ForFour won’t be available in the U.S.; and pricing on the ForTwo models will be announced later.