The brand is all-electric in the U.S.
For the past two decades, Smart has rolled out small, quirky cars under the watchful eye of Daimler AG, also the parent company to Mercedes-Benz. While Mercedes-Benz has a distinct identity and the brand’s sales have grown over the years, the same can’t be said for Smart. Now, a new report from German outlet Handelsblatt says the company will ultimately decide Smart’s fate by the end of this year.
The news hinges around the departure of Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche. He will retire in May, taking his advocacy for the Smart brand with him. In his place, the company will get successor Ola
Källenius, who has a background in the company’s AMG performance division. A source close to Källenius said, “Ola has no history with Smart”, and has no qualms about killing the brand off.
Here in the U.S., Smart has all but disappeared, even from the cities. In 2017, the brand switched to all-electric models under the “EQ” sub-brand. From a global sales peak of 150,000 units in 2004, the brand shifted just 1,276 sold in the U.S. last year. The Smart brand is faring better in Europe, but is still down on sales of the ForTwo and its few other models.
As with several other automotive brands, hope for Smart’s future is largely focused on the Chinese market. That may work, as the electric ForTwo does provide a small, inexpensive way of moving around congested cities. Nonetheless, Handelsblatt rightly point out that “Smart urgently needs positive news.” The brand put forth a lackluster appearance at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, and the brand will need to provide a better show in Frankfurt this September.
If a turnaround doesn’t come out of that, the Smart brand may be well and truly dead by 2020.