By on April 30, 2019

smart-cabrio

Monday brought news few people feared: the dwindling, one-model Smart brand (we refuse to use a lowercase “S”) is gonzo after 2019, at least in North America. Finally, some of you might be thinking.

It’s not likely there’s a large contingent of readers who can claim to be an owner of a Fortwo, or a Fortwo Electric Drive, or a Fortwo EQ Somethingorother, but it’s not inconceivable that a Smart played some part in your automotive history.

Given that the Smart brand lives on — and is destined to breed a new crop of global vehicles from its future Chinese plant come 2022 — it’s worth asking: can you see the brand returning to these unfriendly shores?

It won’t happen without eased trade tensions between the U.S. and China, and it certainly won’t happen if Daimler and joint venture partner Geely feel the new entity has something really hot. Something so scorching, so sure-fire, that it compels the partners to fund homologation, boat trips, showrooms, and branding.

Future Smarts will be electric, yes, but perhaps not as impractical as the brand’s current roster. And who knows what the future holds in terms of fuel prices and government intervention?

The original Fortwo was an oddity when it appeared. In that pre-recession era, the new, second-generation Fortwo offered a 36 mpg combined figure, a low price, and the ability to park anywhere. Despite the fact that a new, five-speed Corolla could seat five and return 31 mpg combined, five-figure volume occurred in more than one year. Up north, Canadians had access to the first-gen diesel model for a couple of years before the Americans, and that lunchbox-on-wheels’ 40 hp diesel triple returned 62 mpg on the highway.

Frugal.

Future Smarts might carry four passengers, not unlike the overseas-market Forfour, and they’ll certainly boast a driving range far in excess of the current EV model’s 58 miles. Looking three years into the future — when we’re all driving Ford Mach Es or what have you — can you see the Smart brand returning for round two?

[Image: Daimler AG]

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32 Comments on “QOTD: Smart Idea, or No?...”


  • avatar

    For the situations where it makes sense, yeah. I see one or two in my mostly rural area making daily commutes. If I did nothing but city driving – I don’t do long distance vacation/leisure trips or commutes of more than 40 miles combined – I could see owning one as my primary DD. Would something else be more fun? Sure. I would own one for no other reason than size, initial cost and fuel needs. (But I really want a Charger R/T or Mustang.)

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      They don’t look it, but the seats in the smart were far and away the most supportive I’ve ever sat in. I did a 9-hour trip one day, hopped out of the car and onto my mower for two hours and felt fine at the end of the day.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Meh… Too much of a uni-tasker.

    My wife whose auto enthusiasm is all “by osmosis” from being with me will say: “Oh look, there goes a Dumb Car” on those rare occasions we see one in traffic.

    I don’t see Smart being worth the trouble for whomever the parent company is.

  • avatar
    arach

    I think the Smart car is a GREAT example of wonderful ideas with awful execution. Its always been too expensive, too awful of fuel economy, and with weird quirks like licensing fees.

    I’ve been tempted to pick up a Clown Car, I mean a Go kart, I mean a Smart Car quite a few times. The deal breaker for me is the ridiculous cost. They “License” the batteries, so even if you buy an electric smart for $4000- that doesn’t include the batteries! That leaves you with a Gasser, but again its Mercedes priced repairs on a budget car.

    I think “china” is exactly what the Smart car needs. It needs a dose of cheapening. If its going to be a tiny city car… make it a tiny city car.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    The cars simply have no place here; everyone who could effectively take advantage of what it offers already bought one. I’m talking people who live in cities where having a car is a hassle WRT parking, maneuvering, etc, and where public transport happens to be available. They won’t buy a second one because if you’re going to go through all that hassle and the car itself isn’t the biggest expense of owning a car, it’s worth it to go bigger/nicer.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    This car doesn’t fill a need that many North American drivers have, so in it’s present form or anything like it…..no. If saving money is the plan a used car is a better choice. Only the small footprint remains as a virtue.

    I had *one* ride in one several years back. The way it shifted made me think it was broken and we’d soon be walking. The owner assured me that it was normal and in my eyes it was another nail in the diminutive coffin.

    Somewhere out there….someone….is looking at a Smart….and an LS3….

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Asking price way too high, fuel economy is woefully uncompetitive given its size, and maintenance costs are far too high. In other words, no.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The only use case for this is if you street park in a major city that you never leave. So yea, Tschüss Felicia

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    I saw one of these being towed behind a motor home. I thought that was an ideal use for one of these cars.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    I’ve seen a few of these perched sideways on semi trucks beds with big 5th wheel travel trailers behind. For that application- it seems perfecto don’t think any other car is short enough to do this.
    I’ve also seen where a Suzuki Hayabusa motor is swapped out for the weak stock motors- that’s something I could support.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    It’s been a few years, but one week I saw two of these cars being used to carry enough people that one of them had to climb out of the trunk. They were both privately owned Smart cars as opposed to Cars2Go. Maybe owning more car than you need a daily basis is smart after all.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I would very much prefer one of those Japanese Kei cars. Given the price alone, this car makes no sense unless you live in an upscale hobbit village.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I was one of the few that genuinely liked the smart – good or bad, it had character (if nothing else, it was a cheap rear-engined car that weighed about 2000lbs), and I’ve lived its use case even in North America. I used to live in an older apartment building (so no on-site parking) since my wife needs subway access, while at the time, I had to drive for work. There are times where even my little Hyundai Accent was too big for the on-street spaces available. For that matter, there’s a couple in my condo building who at times have fit a smart and a second normal car into one parking spot (until our overbearing management company decided that two motor vehicles in one spot was a problem).

    I also think a lot of the smart’s “problems” are just griping by people who don’t life the use case for one, which is just as ridiculous as me griping that all full-sized pickups are awful for everybody because they’re bad for parallel parking. That said, I also think this is genuinely a case where the free market as spoken, and there aren’t enough people who’re stepping up to buy one to justify bringing it over again. Like, complaining that a city car that’s too squat and flat-faced for much aerodynamic styling has highway fuel economy that’s merely good instead of outstanding (while the city fuel economy was genuinely as good as it got until we got the Mitsubishi Mirage, however hated that is).

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I’d much rather get in a crash with a Smart than in any small Japanese or Korean car – the safety cell technology is very impressive and expensive. I’d also rather spend all day sitting in a Smart than in any small Japanese, Korean, or American car, because it has room for someone 6 foot 5 and very supportive seats comparable to Mercedes quality – which is impressive and expensive. The roominess and decent cargo area led to a tall design to keep the footprint tiny, which wrecked the aerodynamics and high speed fuel economy, which they tried to remedy with a very small high tech engine that was expensive and didn’t get very good fuel economy when worked hard, which it often was because it was a small engine. To give the city car “automatic” shifting cheaply they gave it a god awful automated manual rather than a more expensive conventional automatic or a CVT – a good manual would have been fun but probably not popular with mostly female city car buyers. The small footprint also made it very difficult to fit a large battery for the EV version, so it was slow and couldn’t go very far.

    Smart – a high quality, safe, roomy (for 2), high technology car for people living in tight European cities. No way it could ever be cheap enough for the wide open spaces of North America unless they go a totally different direction with cardboard bodies and seats, and batteries get much cheaper to offer decent range.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Don’t believe the hype. The Smart’s structure is fine in a single vehicle crash, but any bigger car(which is all of them) will still go through it like butter, or just punt it like a soccer ball while killing its driver with the A-pillar.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKSPxQjPOm0

  • avatar

    Mercedes has proved they’re willing to sell very small cars here with the GLA and A (which may be a replacement for GLA, I’m not sure). If they need to shift a Smart-sized car in future, they’d be better served to use the Mercedes star, call it luxury, and jack the price up a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      gomez

      The GLA and A are not very small though. Size-wise, they are comparable to a Ford Focus. The Smart ForTwo is almost 5.5 ft shorter than the GLA. The original A-class was 3 ft longer than the current ForTwo. Even with Mercedes star, something that small would be a hard sell.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The current Fortwo is the 3rd generation. The first one Americans got was the 2nd gen. The Canadian diesel cDi was the tail end of the 1st gen.

    Now would be a good time to feature one of those weird Smart Roadster/Coupes or original Mitsubishi-based ForFours in Rare Rides. Back when Smart actually tried branching out.

    I would be interested in a ForTwo if it was slightly longer (I mean maybe a foot, just so there’s at least a tiny amount of storage room behind the seats) and had at least a 150 mile range (in city driving). If I lived in a city, which would be unlikely to ever happen.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Wasn’t Smart, at least the gas version, super unreliable?

    I’d only use it if parking cost more than the car payment and I need it to be small.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    If I needed something of a comparable size, I’d much rather have the Scion iQ. At least theoretically I could cram a passenger and things in the back for a 5-10 minute drive.

    That said I am in the burbs and don’t need such a vehicle. The few occasions where I need to go downtown have me hitting the lightrail/bus from a local park and ride.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I’m a green car guy, but I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in the smart car for my purposes.

    It had small car efficiency in a microcar format. It wasn’t cheap. And the small Midwestern city where I live has ample parking for Prius-sized vehicles. Plus, the name and the styling both annoyed me somehow.

    As much as I like to see unique vehicles on the road, I’m not going to miss the smart car.

  • avatar

    Meh, I would rather ride bicycle.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    There are quite a few Smarts down here in Mexico. They are very practical here in Mexico with the narrow streets in 500 year old villages. Even Nissan March’s are a little to big. Watching someone try to wrestle a large pickup around the village is something to see. You may have to back up three times to get around the corner. So a Smart is a practical car for this area. Or you could do like me and leave the car at home and ride a motorcycle around the village. Cheap Mexican motorcycles start at less than a thousand dollars US. Even Hondas and Yamahas are about a thousand dollars here. Motorcycle heaven.

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