Mercedes-Benz pulls the plug on Smart in America
Hurry down to your local Smart showroom if you want to buy a new Smart Fortwo. Mercedes-Benz recently informed its American dealers that it will kill off the city-car brand in the U.S. market after the current model year.
Rumors have been circulating about Smart’s iffy future, and now the brand confirmed that it is withdrawing from the U.S. Currently, the only model that American Smart dealers offer is the battery electric EQ Fortwo, available in coupe and convertible form. Smart blamed the decision on a moribund market for micro-cars and the relatively high cost of certifying low-production vehicles to meet safety and pollution standards. Going forward, it looks like Daimler’s all-electric EQ brand will replace Smart in the company’s North American portfolio.
The statement from Smart reads:
“After much careful consideration, smart will discontinue its battery-electric smart EQ fortwo [sic] model in the U.S. and Canadian markets at the conclusion of MY2019. A number of factors, including a declining micro-car market in the U.S. and Canada, combined with high homologation costs for a low volume model are central to this decision.
Mercedes-Benz will carry forward its electric strategy in the U.S. and Canada with the arrival of the new EQC in 2020. MBUSA and Mercedes-Benz Canada will continue to provide owners of gasoline powered and electric smart fortwo [sic] models with access to service and replacement parts via smart and authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers.”
As for the future of the Smart brand outside of the U.S., Daimler is looking to the East. A joint venture announced last month with China’s Geely, which last year bought a 9.69 percent stake in Daimler, will develop and manufacture the next generation of micro-cars, with the first results of that hookup arriving in 2022.
The Smart brand was launched in 1998 as a joint effort between Mercedes and the Swatch watch company, but the venture has never been profitable. In 2017, Daimler made Smart an all-electric brand, only to see global sales drop. Last year, Smart sold fewer than 1300 cars in the U.S.