Smart's in Danger, and Not Just in North America

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
smarts in danger and not just in north america

According to a report out of Germany, we’ll know by the end of the year whether Daimler AG intends to keep its Smart city car division alive.

Created a quarter century ago, Smart’s focus on microscopic urban runabouts like the Fortwo gave way to a plan to go all-electric in Europe by 2020, two years after ditching gasoline in North America. However, there’s a chance the automaker’s incoming CEO might relegate the badge to the scrap heap of history.

German newspaper Handelsblatt (via Automotive News Europe) reports that, in a time of belt tightening, Smart’s money-losing ways are weighing heavily on Daimler brass.

According to a company insider, the automaker’s future CEO, Ola Kallenius might pull the plug after replacing the mustachioed Dr. Z in May. Kallenious has “no scruples about killing the brand if necessary,” the source claimed, adding that Dieter Zetsche’s successor has no history with the brand.

Daimler doesn’t make a habit of revealing Smart’s financial performance, though analysts claim the division’s losses amount to billions of dollars since its creation. A report late last year pointed to another potential nail in Smart’s coffin: Daimler’s partnership with Renault. The current-generation Smart Fortwo and overseas-market Forfour share their architecture with the Renault Twingo, but that partnership could soon dissolve, reports claim.

Such a move would leave Daimler hanging; the cost of going it alone would surely seal Smart’s fate.

Globally, sales fell 4.6 percent in 2018, but the move to an all-electric Fortwo in North America for 2018 saw the bottom drop out of domestic Smart demand. With the Fortwo boasting a range of just 58 miles, it’s not surprising. U.S. Smart sales, ironically, fell 58.5 percent in 2018. Through the end of February, some 141 Smarts found buyers in the United States — down 32.2 percent from last year’s already diminished year-to-date volume.

[Image: Daimler AG]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Mar 26, 2019

    So Smart is DB's Saturn, in sense of losing billions and never ever making profits.

    • See 2 previous
    • APaGttH APaGttH on Mar 28, 2019

      @Inside Looking Out ??? I see plenty of Saturns still on the road.

  • Charliej Charliej on Mar 26, 2019

    There are quite a few Smarts down here in Mexico. They are very popular in our narrow streets in the local villages. You see someone in a pickup having to back and fill three times just to turn right at the corner. It makes sense when you think about the village being over four hundred ninety years old. Streets used to be much narrower and they have not got any wider over the years. Smarts and Nissan Marches are the cars that make sense here. I leave my Ford Escape at home most days and just ride my Honda motor scooter. It goes placed the Smart can't. By the way, I am in my mid seventies and hoping to last for at least the next three years. I want to be around for the five hundredth anniversary of the founding of my town.

  • Fahrvergnugen NA Miata goes topless as long as roads are dry and heater is running, windscreen in place.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic As a side note, have you looked at a Consumers Report lately? In the past, they would compare 3 or 4 station wagons, or compact SUVs, or sedans per edition. Now, auto reporting is reduced to a report on one single vehicle in the entire edition. I guess CR realized that cars are not as important as they once were.
  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
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