By on November 12, 2009

Thanks folks! Don't forget to tip your Smarts! What a great audience...

US sales of the not very Smart car have fallen off a cliff. The Financial Times reports that “Smart sold only 661 of its fortwo model in the US last month, more than two-thirds below October 2008 and the lowest for any month since the car made its debut in the US early last year.” Other analysts are blaming low fuel costs and the foolishness of US consumers who just don’t get the appeal of microcars. Not me, I blame the fact that the Smart car is an all around underwhelming vehicle which gives up too much capability in return for mediocre fuel economy. Note that the Smart brand is a failure in Europe as well. “Daimler’s decision to export Smart to the US was a critical part of its rescue plan for the brand. For all its pizzazz, the little car has been a financial millstone. Daimler came close to shutting down the brand in 2006, but opted instead for a €1bn ($1.5bn) restructuring aimed at making the business profitable by the end of 2007.” How anyone (let alone Roger Penske) thought a failed European microcar would be saved by exports to the US is beyond me. Smart’s new “Value Days” 1.9% financing promotion isn’t going to get the job done. Not even a Toyota-esque Saved By Zero campaign would do the trick.

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26 Comments on “Smart Cars Play The Incentive Game...”

  • avatar

    All that could be said about this car’s flaws have been repeated endlessly, so I’ll just say the Smart is dumb.

  • avatar

    And the gas mileage for such a small car ain’t much to get excited about.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    All in all, Daimler is about as screwed up today as GM was circa 1999.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    Premium unleaded only. Instant not good.

  • avatar

    Typical, unfortunately.
    Lose touch with the original idea, and lose the passion, and the customers who would originally support you are going to go away in droves.
    Did we really have to dump that efficient direct-injection diesel to get the car into the states? And did we Canadians have to go along with that decision?

  • avatar

    It’s not even durable, the ball joints wear out quickly. A complete waste. The Roadster was the only interesting model, but it was even a bigger flop than the Fortwo.

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    Argh, why won’t this stupid “car” just die already so we can consider more serious sub-B offerings here in the States? Plenty of kei cars ripe for importation, for instance. Hurry up and send over the iQ already, Toyota, and don’t bloat and Americanize it to all hell like you did with the second-gen xB.

  • avatar

    I drove a Smart car once. It really had that golf cart on a city street feel to it but it was great for parking and a lot faster than its role model, the BMW Isetta. 

  • avatar

    I hope that Smart is used as a case study in business schools in the future.

    A famous car company with a good reputation decides to go down-market without sullying the image of its expensive, high margin products. It invents a new brand with the help of a watch company and builds it in France.

    It sells quite well in Europe so they bring out more models in the range including an interesting and pretty sportscar and a goofy looking overpriced supermini. These are quickly dropped in favour of the original and by now rather dated looking CityCoupé/ForTwo.

    They then decide to go for world domination and try and sell in America which means changing the design to suit american tastes and laws. This alienates the Europeans who can buy a Fiat 500 or any number of other small cars with double the seats for about the same price. It also bemuses the americans who aren’t used to anything much smaller than a Cutlass Supreme.

    Epic Fail.

  • avatar

    This was predictable.  Ironically it reminds me most of Hummer sales.  H1 was a “success” then sales dropped, this was masked by the H2 sales “success” which fell off a cliff and was masked by the H3 launch…notice Hummer sales haven’t rebounded with lower gas prices?  Everyone that wants one has one. Same with the Stupid…er, Smart.

    Morgan and Caterham do it right, they know only a few folks want what they have and don’t pretend it is a volume market.


  • avatar

    If it had a novel drivetrain (either electric or a Suzuki ‘busa motor) or got 70mpg (like it should for its size), it would keep selling. Quirky good looks can only carry you so far…

  • avatar

    I know my boss & his 8 year old son went to some event in Milwaukee (about 100 mile trip for him) and left on an early Saturday morning.  My boss has a smart. He is a tall thin person and his son is of average size.  Cruising along never faster than 55-60mph with no traffic to be seen they averaged 64mpg on a 98% or so highway trip.  YMMV of course….

    I like the idea, but it should really have been a diesel and be under $10k. AFAIK you can’t get it in manual either. My brothers-wifes-sister has one and she loves it as well. Both live in chicago or very close by and don’t do a lot of highway driving.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “And the gas mileage for such a small car ain’t much to get excited about.”
    I dunno; 40-50 mpg in the real world isn’t bad. 75 mpg would be better, of course, but you can thank CARB for defending us from the horrors of good mileage and low CO2 emissions. Sales may perk back up once the all-electric version goes into full production.

  • avatar

    How exhausting is it being “told” what damn car to drive! When gas prices jump, however temporarily, those with lesser mileages will drive less. Problem solved w/o lifting a finger. And if they do not? Well, the revenue will be just as nice.

    It’s an endless game!

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    A logical auto enthusiast is unlikely to buy a Smart. For a lot less money, one can pick up something that’s both fun to drive and amusing to look at. If you’re reading this web site, the Smart is not for you. Get over it.
    The Smart owners around here (suburban New Jersey) bought them as third cars, or fashion statements. Now that fashion statements are out of fashion, so are Smarts.

  • avatar

    i kinda wonder why anyone buys a Smart… or a Toyota iQ
    my question is this… do i want a car so horribly small that I can only move two people anywhere… and that’s it.
    I’m not a small car person but I can see the sense in a Ford Fiesta or even a Nissan Versa.

    4 people + luggage/shopping with reasonably amount of pep. Why do you want a car smaller?

    Ok in paris or rome it might work with the abysmal parking but in other Western nations why bother getting a car that small?

    Even in that case the smallest car I would buy would be that Hyundai Elantra Touring… lots of utility,  small size, easy to park, lots of space.

    Why would you compromise with a smaller car?

  • avatar

    “Smart Tipping” is absolutely hilarious!

  • avatar

    GM should observe and learn from this.  Paying $13k for 40 mpg and 2 seats does not impress.  You can buy a bunch of real cars for that money, with 4-5 seats.

    The Volt will suffer the same fate.

  • avatar

    “Faster than a BMW Isetta!”
    I can just see the new commercials now.

  • avatar

    Nothing wrong with car and nothing wrong with the concept. Small cars are good. Short cars park easily.
    The only thing wrong is the pricing. They want to charge $15k for this $5k car? It’s like charging $45k for a Fit or $70k for an Accord. It’s just wrong.
    If MB can’t off this car at $5k and still make money, then don’t do it. Not every interesting idea is feasible.

  • avatar

    The performance of the Smart is completely underwhelming.   I keep feeling that a small dispalcement 4-cylinder engine should be able to deliver similar gas mileage and better performance to the present car, as well as being smoother and quieter.  (AMG or someone could come out with a super-charged or turbo-charged hi-po version.)  The seemingly similar Ford Ka  and the Toyota iQ both seem better suited to the North American market than the Smart ForTwo.

  • avatar

    The problem I have always had with the Smart is that it’s only selling points were fashion and the ability to park it end on to a curb. Since I don’t care about fashion and euro parking will get you ticketed a Honda Fit blows it away with more seats, more trunk space and a better driving experience for the same money and gas mileage. Now if they were still making the Roadster and selling it here …

  • avatar

    Every once in a while I see a Smart traveling on the interstate and I can’t imagine actually driving one of these.  Around here most everyone drives a truck or SUV and the thought of getting hit by one of these  is alarming.

    I could see  it being useful in NYC or San Francisco.  Maybe.

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