Smart Unveils a New Car—But Not For Americans

Smart has unveiled the Smart #1, and Americans might actually want it. Too bad it’s only available in China and Europe.
Written by Andrew Kidd
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Apr 19, 2022
Smart
, known for its ultra-compact city cars, is releasing a
new model
that Americans might actually want. Unfortunately, it’s only available in Europe and China.
Let’s talk about why the Smart Fortwo failed in the U.S. before we get into why the new one would have worked in the U.S.

Smart cars, dumb marketing

Smart cars were originally available in the U.S. beginning in 2008 and sold for nearly a decade before being pulled from the American market in 2019. The Smart Fortwo was a two-seat city car that didn’t quite appeal to the U.S. market and ran counter to the growing trend of ever-larger SUVs and sedans flooding the market.
Forbes
wrote in 2006 that the
Smart Fortwo
was made for the small parking spaces and narrow roads of its intended European market—a problem most Americans didn’t have to deal with.
The publication assumed the reason DaimlerChrysler brought the Smart brand stateside was to address growing concerns over increasing fuel costs; the Smart Fortwo boasted gas mileage figures of 46 mpg city and 69 mpg highway.
Impressive numbers, but not enough to make Americans drop their big, roomy vehicles for something with next to zero cargo space. Especially when a 2006 Toyota Prius managed 11 more miles per gallon.

How is the Smart #1 different?

As
Road and Track
(R&T) reports, Smart is introducing the
Smart #1
as a four-seater compact electric crossover for the European and Chinese markets. It’s also much larger than the previous Smart offering that graced the American market; it’s roughly the size of a Volkswagen Golf and produces 268 horsepower (more than triple the horsepower of the average Fortwo) from its 66-kWh battery.
The rear-wheel-drive Smart #1 weighs over 4,000 pounds and has an estimated range of up to 273 miles (according to European testing standards).
According to R&T, the Smart #1 is the product of a joint venture between Mercedes and Chinese automaker Geely, which also owns
Volvo
and
Polestar
. The design takes cues from Mercedes vehicles, boasting the same amount of interior space as the E-Class.
Per the
company
, Smart was the first automotive manufacturer to switch completely to electric vehicles in 2019 and, along with Geely, is trying to position itself as a leading EV manufacturer. 
It also marks a transformation of the brand from a super-compact city car maker to something a little more practical (read: larger) for families and commuters.

Will Americans ever drive it?

While the automaker has not announced plans for a North American release—or a reintroduction of the Smart brand to the American market, for that matter—it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the vehicle could eventually end up in the U.S. 
But with the increasing popularity of electric vehicles in the states, it could prove profitable for Smart to bring the vehicle to Americans, especially if it’s more appealing than the Fortwo.
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