Not long ago, the Smart Car was hailed as the wave of the future. The micro cars were a novelty, but one that was becoming more and more visible in towns and cities around the world. However, it seems that for parent company Daimler, the Smart experiment is over. 2019 will be the last year that Daimler markets and sells the electric Smart Fourtwo in the US and Canada. Now, industry observers are doing a post-mortem, trying to understand what went wrong.
One reason for the decline of the micro is that there are simply better options than a Smart Car. These vehicles were marketed as a great solution for moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in crowded cities. However, many large cities are designed around public transit. For example, in New York, it’s just much more efficient to take the subway in most cases. In cases where a person needs to haul something bulky or travel somewhere as a family, the Smart Fourtwo is too small to be practical. These cars were marketed mostly to single young city-dwellers, one of the least likely cohorts to be interested in any car.
The micro-sized Smart Fourtwo was also not adaptable to suburban life. While single people or couples might be interested in an energy efficient car for commutes, the Fourtwo simply didn’t have the range. One charge powers the car for just 58 miles. For many office workers, that’s not even enough to cover their commute. Many American workers will drive farther than that, one-way, just to get to work. The Fourtwo was never a workable option for them.
Daimler remains committed to developing electric cars. As technology improves, it’s likely that consumers will commit to electrics in a big way. Currently, there’s not great infrastructure for charging electric cars. Large consumer electric vehicles, designed for transporting many people or significant cargo, remain rare.
Many cities and businesses are also heavily investing in mass transit. Employers can cut down on spending for parking, even when they’re paying for TransitChek benefits for workers. Investing in transit infrastructure means cities can cut traffic and emissions. Even car-centric cities like Los Angeles are following this strategy. They buyers left in the auto market are looking for larger cars.