Smart car may have left the U.S., but it’s going strong in China. Here the company was known for making the tiny Fortwo and Fortwo Cabrio models that were tiny, cute, customizable city cars. They were sold through independent dealerships but the company was actually a junior brand of Mercedes-Benz. The last smarts in the U.S. were small EV city cars.
While it’s not releasing any new cars here, smart has released the smart #1 crossover. That’s smart with a small “s.” The company has been quiet over the last few years in the U.S. but could some of the features of the new #1 make it to Mercedes new EQ line of electric vehicles?
What happened to smart car?
Smart stopped selling cars in the U.S. in 2019. According to news at the time the company stopped selling cars in the US because it was too expensive to federalize the Fortwo for U.S. roads. The tiny car was, by the end of its lifecycle here, an electric-only car. It was rebranded as the EQ. The company stopped selling gasoline-powered cars here in 2017. Though it was marketed as a city car, it was expensive at $25,000 and had range of just 58 miles.
But smart has soldiered on in the rest of the world. It still sells the Fortwo and Fortwo Cabrio , as well as EQ versions. In 2022, it’s launching the Smart #1.
What is the new smart #1?
The car is a tiny electric vehicle that is being built by Geely in China. The new car, though, is MUCH bigger than previous smart cars. The Fortwo was just 8.5 feet long, that’s one foot shorter than the wheelbase of a Ford Ranger. The #1 is a crossover, sort of, in that it’s a tall boxy four-door. It’s not a sedan, but more of a tall wagon. It’s also a more reasonable 14-feet long, like a normal crossover, and it seats five.
Its all-electric and has a 136-mile range. The wheels are pushed out to the corners to provide maximum interior room. The crossover comes standard with parking assist, steering assist, and many more safety functions. Most of the cars functions can also be controlled by an app in the cloud.
Is the smart #1 coming to the U.S.?
Most likely the smart #1 will not come to the U.S. Smart exited the U.S. market in 2019 because it was too expensive for the company to upgrade the Fortwo to meet strict U.S. crash standards. The brand and its dealerships was also basically left alone and they’ve all closed in the U.S. Re-starting smart dealerships (or smart kiosks in Mercedes shops) would be an expensive proposition.
Regardless, smart says the #1 will be sold in China, Europe “and other markets.” It isn’t saying “no” to the U.S.
Is smart part of Swatch, or Benz?
Yes; It was started by Swiss watch company Swatch with Daimler-Benz and the name was originally an acronym: Swatch Mercedes art, or SMART. Swatch watches were super hit for a brief moment in the 1980s because they were customizable. The idea of the first smart car was to bring the custom elements, as well as affordability and hip design of the watches to city cars. Originally Swatch owned 49% of the company and Mercedes owned 51%. In the late 1990s, however, Daimler-Benz bought the remaining stake int eh company and launched the brand globally.