According to a report out of Germany, we’ll know by the end of the year whether Daimler AG intends to keep its Smart city car division alive.
Created a quarter century ago, Smart’s focus on microscopic urban runabouts like the Fortwo gave way to a plan to go all-electric in Europe by 2020, two years after ditching gasoline in North America. However, there’s a chance the automaker’s incoming CEO might relegate the badge to the scrap heap of history.
German newspaper Handelsblatt (via Automotive News Europe) reports that, in a time of belt tightening, Smart’s money-losing ways are weighing heavily on Daimler brass.
According to a company insider, the automaker’s future CEO, Ola Kallenius might pull the plug after replacing the mustachioed Dr. Z in May. Kallenious has “no scruples about killing the brand if necessary,” the source claimed, adding that Dieter Zetsche’s successor has no history with the brand.
Daimler doesn’t make a habit of revealing Smart’s financial performance, though analysts claim the division’s losses amount to billions of dollars since its creation. A report late last year pointed to another potential nail in Smart’s coffin: Daimler’s partnership with Renault. The current-generation Smart Fortwo and overseas-market Forfour share their architecture with the Renault Twingo, but that partnership could soon dissolve, reports claim.
Such a move would leave Daimler hanging; the cost of going it alone would surely seal Smart’s fate.
Globally, sales fell 4.6 percent in 2018, but the move to an all-electric Fortwo in North America for 2018 saw the bottom drop out of domestic Smart demand. With the Fortwo boasting a range of just 58 miles, it’s not surprising. U.S. Smart sales, ironically, fell 58.5 percent in 2018. Through the end of February, some 141 Smarts found buyers in the United States — down 32.2 percent from last year’s already diminished year-to-date volume.
[Image: Daimler AG]