Mercedes-Benz’s smart brand will be electric-only in North America as of this summer, when it introduces the fourth-generation fortwo Electric Drive city car without a gasoline-powered counterpart.
According to Automotive News, Mercedes’ parent company Daimler wants to refocus smart’s operations in the U.S. and Canada in the wake of slowing sales it blames on the cheap gasoline that’s fueling interest in SUVs and crossovers.
That effectively cuts smart’s portfolio in half on this side of the Atlantic, leaving just coupe and cabriolet versions of the fortwo electric city car in the brand’s showrooms.
Ironically, smart doesn’t sell the electric version in Canada right now, the company having delayed that version here after it introduced the third-generation fortwo as a 2016 model. The last electric fortwo was a 2015 model.
Smart broke the news to its dealers in a letter in which Mercedes-Benz CEO Dietmar Exler told them the decision was precipitated by “developments within the micro-car segment (that have presented) some challenges for the current smart product portfolio.” The gasoline fortwo will remain in production for North America until April, though all existing vehicles will remain available for sale.
Smartly, Benz will continue selling the full range of smart vehicles in other markets, like Europe, where it sells a four-door four-seat model called the forfour.
But going electric-only in North America seems like a good move, given growing interest in electrified vehicles in spite of our relatively inexpensive gasoline. That said, we think the change will have a bigger impact in Canada, where small cars are more popular than in the U.S. and where gasoline tends to be pricier.
Further, the fortwo Electric Drive is arguably the best version of the car: its driving range may be limited to a bit more than 100 km, but it’s a much quieter car without a three-cylinder engine rattling around between the rear wheels.
But even in Canada, smart’s sales have been on the way down: 1,875 Canadians bought a fortwo in 2016, among the lowest figures since the brand’s arrival in Canada in 2004.