It would appear that the Smart money is literally on electric cars. Daimler says it plans to stop selling combustion-engined Smart models in North America entirely. If you live in the United States or Canada and want a goofy gas-powered mini car, you’d better buy one now.
Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler has issued a letter to dealers explaining that the sale of Smart cars with gasoline engines will stop when the 2017 model year ends this fall.
“Developments within the micro-car segment present some challenges for the current smart product portfolio,” Exler wrote in the letter obtained by Reuters. “A dedicated focus on the electric drive in the U.S. and Canada provides a logical step to support a sustainable, zero emissions future.”
According to Daimler, the change does not apply to other markets outside North America, where small cars sales haven’t weakened quite so badly. In fact, Smart’s European sales have bounced back sharply after a five-year slump that began in 2010. Last year was particularly good for the company across the pond, but the brand continued to flounder in both the United States and Canada.
Mercedes-Benz sold 8,086 Smart cars in North America last year, thanks largely to consistently lower gasoline prices and decreasing interest in small cars. Meanwhile, electric cars remain a niche but consistently growing segment. Despite the limitations of having a diminished range and no backseat, Smart’s Fortwo Electric Drive should remain the preeminent vehicle for on-street parking in the country’s densest cities.
Daimler has updated the little EV’s styling and battery for 2017. While the previous Smart EV petered out at 68 miles, the new model is is expected to be capable of a more-livable range close to 100 miles when it arrives this spring.