After being reportedly on the chopping block several times during its existence, it appears Daimler AG’s Smart brand is once again considered to be endangered and could be cut by the end of this year because it’s a money loser.
According to a report from the German newspaper Handelsblatt, soon-to-retire Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche is a big supporter of the microcar line-up and basically the primary reason for its continued existence.
His successor, Ola Källenius, doesn’t feel the same level of commitment to the small car. Further, the brand’s new leader, Kartrin Adt, hasn’t been able to put together a plan that will make the brand profitable.
Adt has been looking for a partner in China, including Daimler AG shareholder Geely Motors, to bolster the brand and accelerate sales in China, according to Reuters.
(Daimler getting Smart with Forease+ at Geneva Motor Show. Click Here for the story.)
“Ola has no history with the Smart,” Handelsblatt quotes an unnamed insider as saying, and no scruples about burying the brand. Again, Smart has been in and out of trouble for much of its two decades of existence.
It was rumored to be on its way out last fall because Renault, Smart’s current European partner, wanted get out of the deal. The Smart ForTwo and Renault Twingo share a platform. However, the plans to continue the brand as an all-electric car appeared to put a little charge in the support for Smart.
The company introduced a new Smart EV at the most recent Geneva Motor Show earlier this month. The new concept, called the Forease+, was the next step in the evolution of the Forease two-seater convertible show at the Paris Motor Show last fall.
(Click Here for more about the Smart Vision EQ Concept.)
Like its predecessor sibling, it features quirky headlights, an almost comically designed exterior and interior all brought to life within an iconically small footprint. However, as a city car, an idea which is quickly gaining steam, a standout model could succeed.
The biggest difference between the two is a light yet firm fabric hard shell covered in a textile soft top fabric. The roof combines many benefits. It is light, robust and yet suitable all year round. The roof is designed to be removable and engages in two cut-outs on the rear which provide an apt reference to the model designation with the “+ push” lettering.
Despite a warm reception in Geneva, the bottom line with the little car may be, in fact, just that: the bottom line. Sales of the little car have never been strong, with a global high of just more than 150,000 in 2004.
(Smart celebrates 20th anniversary with debut of forease urban concept. Click Here for the story.)
According to CarSalesBase.com, sales of the ForTwo have dropped from a high of 24,622 in its first year in the U.S. in 2008 to just 1,276 last year. In Europe, Smart sold 62,361 FourTwo models last year, and 97,346 vehicles in total.