Confirmed: Smart Brand Dead in North America After This Year

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
confirmed smart brand dead in north america after this year

The brand discontinuation we’ve all been waiting for has come to pass.

One month after the city car-building Smart brand’s salvation at the hands of China’s Geely, parent company Daimler has announced the 2019 model year will be Smart’s last in North America.

Say goodbye to a single electric model with a range of 58 miles.

Rumors of the money-losing brand’s imminent demise only grew louder this year, with Daimler’s partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance growing increasingly shaky and Smart sales sinking to near nothing following the North American removal of gasoline-powered models for the 2018 model year. The entire brand was poised to go electric globally before Geely swooped in last month with a deal for a 50:50 joint partnership, saving it from being culled at the hands of incoming Daimler CEO Ola Källenius.

While next-generation Smart vehicles will begin rolling out of a Chinese factory in 2022, the story comes to an end on this side of the Atlantic this year.

TechCrunch confirmed the brand’s discontinuation in the U.S. and Canada on Monday, following word from two sources who revealed Daimler’s plans.

“After much careful consideration, smart will discontinue its battery-electric smart EQ fortwo model in the U.S. and Canadian markets at the conclusion of MY2019,” a Daimler AG spokesperson wrote in an email to the publication. “A number of factors, including a declining micro-car market in the U.S. and Canada, combined with high homologation costs for a low volume model are central to this decision.”

Smart sales will continue to the end of the year, the spokesperson said, adding that servicing and parts will remain available through certain Mercedes-Benz dealers.

Daimler’s incoming CEO, Ola Källenius, was reportedly prepared to drop Smart like a hot potato in order to stem the red ink.

Conceived of by SMH, maker of Swatch watches, Smart became a reality in 1994 after the company paired with Daimler for the development and production of a new line of ultra-efficient city vehicles. The Fortwo was the first model birthed from the brand, and the only one to make it to North America. Available in coupe and convertible form and saddled with an automatic transmission deemed the worst in the industry, the rear-engined Fortwo offered two passengers unlikely legroom, meager cargo space, and insanely high fuel economy from its diminutive three-cylinder diesel.

The brand came to Canada in 2004, arriving in the U.S. four years later and sold through participating Mercedes-Benz dealers. By that time, Daimler had increased its stake to a majority one. Earlier this decade, the Fortwo’s diesel engine gave way to a gasoline-powered 0.9-liter unit, with an electric variant offered alongside.

Slow acceleration (in ICE-powered models), limited cargo and passenger capacity, and terrifyingly small exterior proportions made the Fortwo an increasingly tough sell in truck-crazed North America, with its debut year being its best sales year in the United States. Volume plunged each year following the 2014 entry of the current-generation model, and 2018’s dropping of internal combustion powerplants saw sales enter a rocket-assisted freefall.

Some 1,276 Fortwos found buyers in the U.S. last year.

Between 2018 and 2019, the now lone Smart Fortwo Electric Drive gained an EQ designation, part of Daimler’s electric vehicle branding strategy, which stands to make the last iteration the rarest of all domestic Fortwos.

So long, Smart.

[Images: Daimler AG, TTAC]

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2 of 7 comments
  • Acd Acd on Apr 29, 2019

    The transmission in a Smart feels like a kid driving a manual who can't use a clutch very well or shift gears except its an automatic doing it, apparently all on purpose.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Apr 29, 2019

    Oh, no! It cannot be, it is so cruel, what they do to us. I cannot imagine my life without Smart vehicle in rear mirror of my car. First Climate Change, then Fiesta, and now this, where world is heading?!

  • Cprescott The pandemic changed the sales game. No longer do dealerships need inventory. After two years people are accustomed to having to order what they want and then extorted on the price by the dealer for that privilege. Now used cars with 75k are selling for $5k more than I paid for my 21k, 2016 model back in January 2019. I pray my car won't get totaled and I have but 13 payments left to make on it. I may never buy another car again.
  • Grein002 I hope you meant "take the Ranger out behind the *barn*" rather than "bar". I think something completely different happens "behind the bar".
  • Cprescott Suddenly there is no reason to buy ugly anymore. The Silverdodo is dead. Long live the less hideous Colorado.
  • Cprescott Portable BBQ's for everyone!
  • Lou_BC The 2023 ZR2 is burdened with GM's 8 speed. It's been allegedly "fixed" so it doesn't gear hunt and shudder. I still won't trust it. The turbo 4 cylinder should address the lack of torque found in the V6. I test drove a full-sized Trail Boss. I could make it gear hunt. The turbo 4 didn't seem to be lacking in power, at least for an empty crewcab with a 6.5 box. It lacked anything resembling character. It had next to zero compression braking even with tow/haul engaged. Chevy should have continued offering the VM Motori based inline 4 diesel that's in the older Colorado trucks. I do like the fact that the 2023 comes with 33's standard and IIRC the wheel hubs/axles etc. have been beefed up to handle the larger rubber. The bolt pattern (IIRC) is shared with fullsized 1/2 tons opening up one's choice for aftermarket wheels.