Can you really say you're surprised?
Despite what logic may tell you, even the auto industry’s boom cycles can claim their victims. While most companies are reveling in the profit machines they’ve turned their crossovers and SUVs into, that trend is simultaneously killing off small cars, the type Americans have always had a hard time loving. Smart is the latest victim of the onslaught according to Tech Crunch, because the carmaker’s parent company Daimler has decided to kill off the brand in the US and Canada after the 2019 model year.
An unnamed Daimler spokesperson confirmed the brand’s demise in an email to TC, saying, "After much careful consideration, Smart will discontinue its battery-electric smart EQ fortwo model in the US and Canadian markets at the conclusion of MY2019. A number of factors, including a declining micro-car market in the US and Canada, combined with high homologation costs for a low volume model are central to this decision.”
As you may recall, Smart pulled the internal combustion engine from its North American lineup in 2017 in an effort to go fully electric and become "an urban version of Tesla.” Given that the electric fortwo, which can be had as a coupe and cabriolet, is Smart’s only model, its demise signals the end of the brand in this region. Sales were already bad before 2017, with the fortwo rarely cracking more than 1,000 sales per month since the brand was introduced to the US in 2008.
The news is hardly surprising. With low gas prices helping drive demand for SUVs and that same SUV glut making the act of driving a small car seem unsafe, it felt like a matter of time before Daimler called last rites for Smart. And then there’s the fact that the fortwo only managed a range of 58 miles per charge, paltry when compared to the 100 mile-plus range that many of today’s EVs can manage. Not all hope is lost, though.
Just last March, Chinese automaker Geely bought a 50% stake in Smart, effectively forming a joint venture with Daimler that would see Smart become a China-based electric car maker. The agreement calls for Smarts to be made at a new factory in China, with global sales expected to start in 2022. Even then we wouldn’t expect Smart to ever thrive in the US, especially if its lineup still consists of cars as small as the fortwo. The landscape of America's auto market in the 2020s is increasingly looking like it'll be dominated by electric crossovers like the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC rather than the fortwo. We’ll still be sure to mourn Smart, since the world is always in need of more quirky cars.