Brand That Looks at Fiat With Envy in the U.S. Previews Its Future

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
brand that looks at fiat with envy in the u s previews its future

The Smart (“smart,” officially) experiment continues in North America, only now it’s electric. While the Daimler division has never offered anything other than a single, two-seat model on this side of the Atlantic, Europeans have a modicum of choice when it comes to choosing a Smart. You can even get one with a backseat.

After going the all-electric route in the U.S. last year, Smart wants its small legion of global fans to know it’s thinking of the future. Hence, the ForTwo Electric Drive became the ForEase.

Scheduled to be unveiled in Paris next week, the ForEase is a ForTwo-based speedster concept powered solely by electricity, hopefully with a longer range than what its siblings see today.

As it’s just a concept, you’ll likely never have to worry about keeping the rain out of this pint-sized runabout. This open-top, minimalist vehicle previews the future of the brand, Smart claims, drawing attention to the model’s “unconventional beauty, lightness and energy.” Alrighty. Those truncated B-Pillars (chopped and turned into rollover hoops), combined with the vestigial nose added for the model’s third generation, makes this ForTwo derivative the closest thing to a three-box design we’ve seen from Smart.

Maybe it’s just a longer, single box.

As Smart already sells the ForTwo Cabrio, expect this bodystyle to remain a conceptual idea, though some styling cues will likely make their way into future vehicles. After all, the aggressive vents in the restyled front fascia and sporty rear bumper scream “power!” — even if the vehicle’s size shouts “ack, a mouse!”

It’s worthwhile to wonder whether Smart has a future in North America. Appearing on these shores years after going into production in Europe (Smart’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year), the novel automobile dwindled in popularity as gas became cheaper, vehicles grew larger, and state-mandated efficiency rose by a considerable degree. The early automated transmission was a dismal piece of machinery. Older models proved susceptible to engine fires.

Smart solved both of those problems by going all-EV, but it couldn’t improve on the practicality of a lone, tiny, two-seat vehicle with next to no cargo volume. Over the first eight months of 2018, some 861 Smart ForTwos found new homes in the States. Every single Fiat model outsold the ForTwo in 2018. In Canada, 236 Smarts left joint Smart-Mercedes-Benz dealers, but, like their American counterparts, didn’t drive more than 58 miles before their owners stopped to plug them in.

[Image: Daimler AG]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Sep 30, 2018

    Isn't Smart made by Swatch, Swiss watchmaker? I mean what do you expect besides of Swiss arrogance?

    • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Oct 01, 2018

      The original concept did indeed involve Swatch, but Mercedes soon took full control. It was part of a fin de siècle trend in Europe for small tall cars that gave us the Smart, Audi A2, original A class, euro Ford Fusion (a tall Fiesta rather than the midsize sedan), even Rover's engineers had similar plans for the new MINI (the Spiritual concept looked like a Smart 2 door and 4 door, before BMW decided it was to be a sports hatch instead. BMW sat it out and waited for the EV revolution to launch the i3).

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Oct 01, 2018

    The 4 door 'backseat' Smart is based on the small Renault Twingo (something of a successor to the original 4/5 models once the Clio 5 replacement got bigger), rear engined rear wheel drive tiny cars...

  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.
  • William I'm a big fan of 70s Lincolns. I really liked the 1980s Mark Vl. I thought it was very classy, and I never thought of it as a restyled Town Car. I did own a 1990 LSC, it was black over black leather interior. I loved the LSC as soon as they were introduced. I loved the sound of the duel exhaust, I thought it fit the car perfectly. I never had any problems with it. The 5.0 is a great engine, and never had any issues with the air suspension system. It had the the analog dash and I made good use of the message center. I highly recommend this Mark. The black paint and interior fit the car and me perfectly.