Geely Could Come to the Rescue of Dying, Daimler-Owned Smart Brand: Report
But how smart would that be?
Remember the Smart ForTwo? That's right, the two-seater micromobile still exists in 2019 despite faltering sales and little marketing. German publication Handelsblatt recently reported that the Smart brand could be nixed by year-end; however, new data uncovered by the Financial Times reports that Smart’s parent company Daimler is nearing completion on a deal with Volvo's overseas parent company Geely to keep it alive.
According to the report, Daimler is believed to be selling off a 50 percent stake in Smart to Geely. Though the deal hasn't been completed in an official capacity, individuals familiar with the matter say that (if successful) the deal will be penned prior to the Shanghai Auto Show in April.
Daimler refused to comment on the rumors, only stating that it had been working with "several possible co-operation partners" for the next generation of Smart vehicles.
Smart has long been a losing brand for Daimler, even pawned off to live as a child-brand of Mercedes-Benz. The automaker never sold anywhere close to its anticipated 200,000 units per year; in fact, in the past decade, Smart hasn't sold more than 25,000 units annually in the United States.
Though Daimler doesn’t break out earnings of its Smart division, industry analysts predict that Smart has failed to generate any meaningful profits since the brand's launch 21 years ago. More than two-thirds of dealers in the United States have already stopped carrying the brand.
Smart has already shifted its focus from gasoline to electric, transitioning all of its brand new ForTwos to carry the familiar Mercedes-Benz EQ branding in 2018. Geely picking up the already-electrified brand of small commuters would make sense, given the recent investment the automaker has placed in both Volvo and Lynk & Co.
It's also not clear where the brand's audience truly lies. Geely could choose to pull Smart out of the U.S. or rural areas and instead market it as an urban commuter in densely populated cities where EVs and charging infrastructure is already more popular. Whatever plans they have, if the deal is penned as planned, Smart may have a rejuvenating announcement for the Shanghai Auto Show next month.