By on April 29, 2019

smart fortwo electric

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.

2015 Smart Fortwo ED

[Images: Daimler AG, TTAC]

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7 Comments on “Confirmed: Smart Brand Dead in North America After This Year...”

  • avatar

    Had one as a rental during a TDY in Rome in my previous career. This car made perfect sense for those alley-wide roads that went in all directions, almost zero parking space, and drivers that considered the laws of the road mere suggestions. Combined with gas prices at the time that started over $8.50/gal (thanks AmEx for doing the conversion for me…that was an eye watering bill!), and this skateboard on wheels made perfect sense.

    But they did it ALL wrong here on this side of the Atlantic. On the autostrade, this car was WAY out of its element. The automatic was just awful and highway fuel economy wasn’t anything to write home about. That that ruled it out of maybe 98% of American’s auto needs. The 2% live in places that are already crowded and covered with mass transit that makes having a car optional.

    I’m glad to see that this car will live on in markets that it will best serve because once you try to battle the narrow, crowded, twisted roads of a place like Rome, Athens, or Barcelona in anything larger than a Fiat 500, you’ll want to have the smallest, easiest to park vehicle on the planet. It will save your sanity. It’s a neat, colorful car with a style all of its own. It just never had a chance at all here, not with our wide open spaces, cheap(er) fuel, and larger, better cars for the same money.

    • 0 avatar

      City fuel mileage of the smart wasn’t exactly great, either. And the electric version’s range of 58 miles? Hell, that’s less than the unloved 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV (62 miles). Even the Fiat 500e is rated to go 84 miles on a charge and the Chevy Spark EV is 82 miles.

      But, yeah, it’s easy to see why the fortwo did okay in Europe. It simply didn’t have a market for somewhere like the US where cramped city driving is the exception rather than the rule.

  • avatar

    About five years later than it should have been.

  • avatar

    Wow! Never would have thought that taking an already unloved niche brand and going all-electric with limited capacity would torpedo the whole operation.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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?!

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