It is an open secret that Daimler-owned small car brand Smart is suffering from slow sales, especially here in America. With an influx of high-quality compact cars in the same price range as the Smart, consumers are avoiding the diminutive brand in favor of more mainstream car makers.
But Daimler has a plan to lure customers back, and it centers on offering the cheapest electric car on the market. But will that be enough?
Daimler, the parent company of both Smart Car and Mercedes-Benz, believes that the market is ripe for a low-cost electric city car. Alas, Smart has fallen far behind other competitors offering more affordable and practical city cars, and 14 years after the brand launched, Smart still offers just a single model, the 2-passenger Smart ForTwo.
But this week the first deliveries of an electrified Smart car begin. Interchangeably called the e-Smart or Smart Electric Drive, Daimler hopes this will reposition the brand as a leader in urban commuting. The e-Smart will offer about 145 km/90 miles of driving per charge, well within the 30 or so miles most Smart car owners currently drive in Europe, and it will do it at the lowest price point for any EV; 18,910 Euros, or about $24,600 U.S. dollars.
THis will make the e-Smart the cheapest EV on the European market, but there is a catch; owners will have to pony up 65 Euros, or about $85 a month to rent the battery pack. This is similar to what French automaker Renault is doing with their own EV, the Zoe Z.E. Renting the battery keeps costs low, and European customers seem more keen on the idea of renting a battery than their American counterparts.
The initial rollout of the e-Smart will be via Daimler’s Car2Go car-sharing service in both Europe and America, and small business owners may find the e-Smart’s low fuel costs quite appealing. Still, Smart needs to add some diversity to its lineup, and a good start would be to bring the ForStars Concept to reality.
Can Daimler revive the Smart brand, or is this the dying gasp of a failing car brand?