By on June 13, 2010

Wired hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head when it titled its recent review of the pure plug-in Smart ForTwo Electric Drive “Smart EV Would Be Smarter if It Were Cheaper.”

Well, it’s not. As a matter of fact, it’s insanely expensive.

Daimler’s Smart plans to make 1,500 ForTwo Electric Drives available for lease beginning this fall. If you want one, get in line. 250 of the 1,500 will be coming to America. Most will go to corporate fleets. 50 or so can be leased by the common Joe, if the common Joe can come up with the dough.

The lease for the battery-powered (batteries by Tesla) midgetmobile will be $600 a month for 48 month lease. That’s after the $7,500 federal EV tax credit. Without government largess, the lease would have been $915 a month. For a two seater. With batteries that are good for 82 miles. When that battery is down to 20 percent, plan on 3.5 hours on the charger to bring it up to 80 percent. That’s a 3.5 hour break every 50 miles. I don’t think so.

Who’s betting that some of the 50 cars will collect dust in the showroom? Or maybe it will be a niche car for guys with a mistress.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Sorry, honey, had to charge the car.”

“And why’s you hair wet?”

“Went to the gym while it was charging.”

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30 Comments on “Raise Your Hand If You Want A SmartForTwo EV. Now, Show Your Wallet...”


  • avatar
    segfault

    A ripoff compared to the Leaf.

  • avatar

    Oh, Bertel, that is a funny joke. Daimler wouldn’t be that stupid, would they? I mean, I know the Tesla is cool and all, but will it having “batteries by tesla” next to the smart logo raise my cred with dames enough to make it worth the $600 when–if I were in LA at least–I could lease the beautiful and crisp handling Honda Clarity (I’ve driven it, it really is a lovely luxury car) for the same price?

    Or is Daimler counting on the old WC Fields wisdom about when suckers are born?

  • avatar
    JimC

    Meh.. I wouldn’t think of this business plan as something that turning a profit right away as a goal.

    Think back to the late 1990s and the first generation Prius and Insight. Those cars were sold in small numbers, usually at a loss (especially Insight) and marketed towards… nerds. Er, people on the fringes. But those customers ran with the unique cars, had their clubs and online forums and did a heck of a lot of beta testing for Toyota and Honda. And all the parties involved were happy!

    I have an uncle and aunt who are very liberal and see themselves as “green.” (They have a business installing solar panels, ride recumbent bikes for fun, and so on.) They want to buy a Smart car not because it’s practical (a used Honda Civic is far more sensible) and not because they want to be _seen_ in one, but because they believe it would set a good example to the general public. I don’t _agree_ with it but I do _get_ it.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t take this car if given one. If given one, I’d immeadiately sell it. And buy an Uno. And put the rest of the money in the bank.

    Then I’d enjoy a real car. With a real engine. And great fuel comsumption. Not to mention space for 4 real full-sized adults.

    And I’d have a lot of change in the bank.

  • avatar
    carguy

    What I don’t get about the SMART is not only how badly is drives but also the compromises it asks of its owners for only mediocre frugality. Apparently its is based on a really old small car platform and Daimler never saw fit to upgrade it. Adding the weight and expense of an EV drive train will not solve anything and will just make it stupidly expensive. Problem is, its no longer the trendy green fashion statement it was a couple of years ago and it seems hard to believe that this will sell on its merits alone.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    A similar value proposition is what caused the Smart line, in each body-style, to serially flop ever since it launched in 1998…

    As long as your USP is not a “gotta have” (see Mini, 5 $/gal gas, or irrefutable evidence of AGW for gotta have conditions), you can not saddle the product with Daimler overheads, or profit margins…

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Good God Daimler. A truly “green” individual would get an inexpensive used compact car and take the rest of the montly payment and give it to the World Wildlife Fund or the Siera Club or something.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Considering that someone is still buying unimitigated crap like the electric-golfcart-with-a-car-body Zap Xebra, I wouldn’t think smart will have too much trouble unloading 50 fortwo EVs with pricey leases.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    It’s not for folks who add up their grocery receipts every week. It’s for people who think “Ooooh, I want a funky electric car!” and are unfazed by the cost of being an early early adopter. Mini didn’t have any problems finding takers for the Mini-E.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The regular Smart would be better if it were cheaper, never mind the EV.

  • avatar

    At that price, it’s going strictly as a fashion statement.

    The regular smart would be vastly improved with a stick and a clutch.

  • avatar
    Daanii2

    WaveCrest Laboratories did a one-off prototype electric version of a Smart sports car convertible. Now that was an electric car!

    This thing? Nothing to get excited about.

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    $600 a month buys a lot of *real* car.

  • avatar
    dancote

    I know, let’s go out and berate everyone who’s foolish enough to buy 2-seater cars. Especially those folks who own Corvettes, Porsches, Ferraris, Bugattis. OMG, don’t they know how many plain vanilla 4-door econoboxes they could get for the same money? To say nothing of never being able to take more than 1 passenger along.

    I surely had a “senior moment” when I got my smart. Next time I’ll make sure and check with you all when I want to buy a new car. Just because it’s my money doesn’t mean I should be able to choose after all.

    Wait, it gets better. My Harley cost more than my smart, gets worse gas mileage and I can only carry 1 passenger. I’m doomed.

    • 0 avatar
      newcarscostalot

      You may be doomed riding the Harley, but you’ll look cool in the end!

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      It has nothing to do with the fact that the Smart has two seats. I love two-seaters. The problem is that it either needs to be a lot better to drive and spend time in, or it needs to be a lot cheaper. The driving dynamics and performance are completely unacceptable for a car at the Smart’s price point. Alternatively, they could make it get unbelievable fuel economy, and maybe they could make a case for it that way. There is nothing wrong with the size; I like the idea of a Smart, it’s just that the delivery was sub-par.

    • 0 avatar
      mountainman_66

      Lets do a benefit to cost analysis on your “smart”. Its akin to an animal asking itself if chasing down a particular meal is worth the energy expended. For example, you will rarely see a bear chase a single bee through the forest in the hopes of eating it!
      Back to cars….you self-rightously lump your “smart” in with Corvettes, Porsches, et al, as if having two seats and four wheels made them all relatively similar. Wrong. Even my 10 year old daughter gets THAT comparison.
      The sports cars you mentioned are all relatively athletic and stylish….sporty, if you will. So that is the benefit you are examining when you compare that to the cost. And amongst like cars that are ‘sporty’.
      Your “smart” is neither athletic nor stylish. The benefit that one derives from a “smart” is frugality, and possibly a sense of environmental consciousness.
      Those two factors are what you must consider relative to the cost of “smart” ownership and the relative benefit to cost analysis as it compares to other cars.
      Just doing the math, it seems that ownership of a 2005__________ (Civic/Corolla/what have you) is far more efficient.Most any nearly new 4 cylinder will defeat your “smart” in the fuel efficiency dynamic, in the miles per dollar dynamic and the environmental awareness dynamic.
      You can use this sort of analysis for nearly anything…….
      Will a single F-22 Raptor be overwhelmed by FIVE MILLION R/C Helicopters? Or will the F-22 defeat them all?
      Good question!
      There is one benefit to cost analysis that the “smart” will win nearly every time, but Im sure you already know what that one is.
      Unless you throw a lavender Miata in the equation…then it gets tricky!

    • 0 avatar
      mountainman_66

      Lets do a benefit to cost analysis on your “smart”. Its akin to an animal asking itself if chasing down a particular meal is worth the energy expended. For example, you will rarely see a bear chase a single bee through the forest in the hopes of eating it!
      Back to cars….you self-rightously lump your “smart” in with Corvettes, Porsches, et al, as if having two seats and four wheels made them all relatively similar. Wrong. Even my 10 year old daughter gets THAT comparison.
      The sports cars you mentioned are all relatively athletic and stylish….sporty, if you will. So that is the benefit you are examining when you compare that to the cost. And amongst like cars that are ‘sporty’.
      Your “smart” is neither athletic nor stylish. The benefit that one derives from a “smart” is frugality, and possibly a sense of environmental consciousness.
      Those two factors are what you must consider relative to the cost of “smart” ownership and the relative benefit to cost analysis as it compares to other cars.
      Just doing the math, it seems that ownership of a 2005__________ (Civic/Corolla/what have you) is far more efficient.Most any nearly new 4 cylinder will defeat your “smart” in the fuel efficiency dynamic, in the miles per dollar dynamic and the environmental awareness dynamic.
      You can use this sort of analysis for nearly anything…….
      Will a single F-22 Raptor be overwhelmed by FIVE MILLION R/C Helicopters? Or will the F-22 defeat them all?
      Good question!
      There is one benefit to cost analysis that the “smart” will win nearly every time, but Im sure you already know what that one is.
      Unless you throw a lavender Miata in the equation…then it gets tricky!

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      You are quite right. Not everyone has the same value equation. Mine doesn’t work for the smart, but it also doesn’t work for lots of other cars, either.

      You shouldn’t take any heat for owning one.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    The Smart is, and always was, the automotive equivalent of the hairshirt. Everyone that sees you in this know you are making sacrifices. You are making a statement. You are making a difference.

    Anyone with any car blood in them knows that that is bogus but that isn’t the point. It’s all about the optics and the image. I betcha they’ll sell out within the month. Especially in Cal and Wash. No brainer.

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    I don’t think the regular smart is all that bad. My boss driving at the limit here (55) on a 1 hour+ trip with no traffic on a weekend averaged > 60mpg.

    For the same money I’d take a ninja 250 & stick the difference in the bank, but that is just me.

    With that being said I really don’t see the point of EV’s.

    I have lots of apartment renting friends who park on the street and are NOT able to have a private place to plug their car up to recharge. If they had a place to recharge (or barring that — swap batteries in the same time it takes to put fuel in) it would be perfect as they are constantly sitting in traffic. With no private place to recharge and no quick way to stop batteries, how does it work?

    On the other hand I live out 40 miles in the suburbs. If this thing can’t go 65-75mph for 80 miles w/o a recharge in -10F weather it is absolutely 100% useless to me and to most suburbanites here in the midwest where we actually have winter.

    Who is their market? City dwellers that can afford garages? Garages aren’t UNCOMMON,but I’d bet that more city dwellers are without garages than with.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    I’ve always been wondering what Daimler is trying to accomplish with Smart. They used to pride themselves on technological leadership, but today just about any other major car maker has more compelling cars with similar or better fuel economy than the Smart can offer (some companies, like VW, don’t sell these cars in the US however).

  • avatar
    jcap

    How is it possible that people still don’t understand the smart market segment?

    The smart is supposed to be the smallest car possible that still is road and crashworthy. How is that difficult to understand?

    People who buy a smart want the smallest car possible so they aren’t interested in a bigger car for the same money.

    Smart is a Mercedes sub-brand so budget buyers may not apply. Not everyone is on the hunt for the best bang for the buck.

    Yes cars like this are in big part a fashion statement, people buy things because they like the way they look, or the brand.

    The smart may not be the best executed product, but there is a market for products of this form-factor, at least in europe.
    See, SMART copy’s like the Toyota IQ and others..

  • avatar
    mythicalprogrammer

    “When that battery is down to 20 percent, plan on 3.5 hours on the charger to bring it up to 80 percent. That’s a 3.5 hour break every 50 miles.”

    You make it seems like they’re going to go on a road trip with this. I remember one of em car blogs out there drove the Smart from SF to LA and he said it felt dangerous.

    They’re urban vehicle man, sheesh. Wanna see those Japanese kid drift with the electric version– 100% torque on tap nice.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The MINI-e, available by lease only, cost $800+ per month. The MINI-e is a two-seater as well. Plus, you, the person signing for the lease, had to pay for getting the charging station installed. If you didn’t have an ample supply of electricity in your garage, you had to pay for that too.

    A guy in my township took out a lease on a MINI-e and then discovered it would cost him about $6000 to get a charging station installed in his detached garage. He found a sympathetic eco-weenie neighbor who already had the power in his garage.

    Frankly, if one has to go eco-weenie and sign up for a lease, the smart-ee seems like a bargain, compared to the MINI-e.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Two people within a block of me have (normal gasoline) Smarts. I have no idea why; I really should ask them. I live in what basically is a suburb (Riverside, CA). Parking is not at a premium here, and these suck as a freeway commuting car (like if you driving to downtown LA), unless you are going purely for the highest mileage vehicle you can get without paying the “hybrid premium”.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I believe the correct term is “vertically challenged” mobile.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    “Who’s betting that some of the 50 cars will collect dust in the showroom?”

    There are 300,000,000 people in this country, give or take; I’m quite sure there are 250 idiots out there that will buy this thing for the look-at-me factor alone. All that will be necessary to turn these things out to “Seen-As-Green” clique is a properly affixed “hybrid” badge/applique of some sort…


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