Smart has had a short and fun history in America. But as high-tech as its cars were, they couldn’t make it in the states. Despite that failure, Smart is building its largest small car yet. Here’s a look at its latest effort to dig itself out of its grave and breathe new life into the brand.
A brief look at the brand
Although Smart has been making cars since the ’90s, Americans didn’t really start hearing and seeing those cars until much later. This makes a lot of sense since Smart cars are tiny. Though many Americans don’t mind small cars, it’s clear that many prefer larger vehicles. Regardless, the Smart Fortwo gained some traction in some American cities.
There were several reasons for the Fortwo’s relative success. Its small size made parking easy, and it got great gas mileage. Plus, it was a cheap car, even compared to a compact sedan. Later, the company turned the Fortwo into an EV, and that gave it some extra attention. But despite its transition into an EV, the Fortwo still didn’t sell well.
So Daimler, which owns the brand, pulled it out of America in 2019 and focused on its business in Europe and China, where Smart cars are more popular.
Smart’s latest small car is a crossover SUV
Also in 2019, Daimler decided to partner with the Chinese automaker Geely. In this new partnership, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand would design new cars for the Smart brand, while Geely would handle the engineering and production aspects. The first fruit of their labor is a 14-foot-long concept SUV, the appropriately named Concept #1. For comparison, it measures “a hair shorter than the … 2022 Mini Countryman,” Jalopnik reports.
This is actually Smart’s second try at making an SUV. It’s slated to be a five-seater, though there may be a four-seater too. In any case, it should have the “same comfort and space of a business sedan,” Jalopnik says. In addition, it will truly be a smart car. That’s because it will boast a Level 2 semiautonomous self-driving system.
Despite the SUV’s small size, the infotainment system will feature a large 12.8-inch touchscreen display. Furthermore, it will receive over-the-air updates. And because the company is still committed to electric vehicles, the SUV will also be an EV. It will use Geely’s SEA EV platform, but details are scarce right now. So it’s also unclear how much range or how many motors the SUV will have.
Will the Smart SUV come out in the U.S.?
Jalopnik reports that Smart is close to moving this SUV from concept to production. The company estimates it will begin making this SUV in 2022 and commence sales in 2023. In addition, Smart will use a direct sales model, the same way Tesla sells its cars.
However, despite Americans’ love for SUVs, Smart hasn’t announced plans to sell its crossover in America. This could change, but there’s been no indication so far.
But though the brand will probably continue to remain dead in America, its SUV could be the first of many cars in Smart’s revival. This is because of Geely’s SEA platform — a company would rarely design a platform for only a few cars. So more Smart cars could be on the way.