Smart Aims to Break Sales Records—Without a Crossover

Soon they’ll be an electric-only brand in the US.

Daimler AG

Smart boss Annette Winkler spoke to Automotive News Europe about her brand and where it’s headed. While their volume seems insignificant in the US, the Daimler microcar brand actually had a record year in 2016, boosting their global volume by 21 percent selling 144,479 total units.

When asked if a small crossover was in the works at Smart, Winkler said she’s planning on continuing growth without one. They're sticking to their core product of the tiny city car as more and more megacities pop up around the world. She gives the example of China having over 150 cities each with a population of over one million.

So what does that mean for the US? Americans seemingly won’t buy anything that doesn’t resemble an SUV and the microcar segment is lagging here. Winkler plans on making Smart even more of a quirky, standout brand by making them all electric and market towards a specific niche of drivers. Much like EVs, a lot of Americans who buy a Smart are buying it as their second or third car. Winkler is betting a lot on Smart EVs in North America, and shared some interesting stats.

“With the previous generation, in peak times electric variants were responsible for a quarter of our U.S. sales and more than 50 percent in Canada,” Winkler told Automotive News, “The microcar segment in the U.S. is shrinking more and more, so it makes sense to focus on the variant that has the bigger potential. In the U.S., this is certainly the electric drive.” She went on to say that the US will be the only EV-only market for Smart in the near future.

The Smart ForTwo makes a lot of sense as an EV. The gas version isn’t as fuel-efficient as it looks, and besides you can get a Honda Civic that gets better mpg, is much more usable as a car, and doesn’t cost much more. While other car brands famous for their compact city cars grow into bloated crossovers, it’s nice to see Smart sticking to what they’re good at.