Smart Cars Play The Incentive Game

John Horner
by John Horner

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.

John Horner
John Horner

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4 of 26 comments
  • Wsn Wsn on Nov 13, 2009

    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.

  • Johnster Johnster on Nov 13, 2009

    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.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow Slow_Joe_Crow on Nov 13, 2009

    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 ...

  • Capdeblu Capdeblu on Nov 13, 2009

    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.