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It’s over: Smart confirms it’s leaving America after disastrous EV shift

Cops in Manhattan will need to find new patrol vehicles, because the endless rumors that pointed to the Smart brand’s demise weren’t 100% false. While parent company Daimler saved its spunky city car division at the last minute by selling half of it to a Chinese partner, it confirmed that it will stop selling the ForTwo in the United States and in Canada after the 2019 model year.

“A number of factors, including a declining micro-car market in the U.S. and Canada, combined with high homologation costs for a low-volume model are central to this decision,” a Daimler spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement. Current Smart owners will still be able to rely on the Mercedes-Benz dealer network for parts and service, the spokesperson added, so the decision to end sales won’t create orphan cars with no factory support.

The news hardly comes as a surprise. The Smart ForTwo was never a high-volume seller in America due largely to its pocket-sized dimensions, but sales plummeted disastrously after the company went all-electric for the 2018 model year. The brand lost a third of its dealer network as sales embarked on a 58-percent drop. It managed to sell only 1,276 cars in America in 2018, and 2019’s figures look even worse.

At just 106.1 inches from bumper to bumper, the Smart ForTwo was the smallest car available new in the United States by a long shot. Once it retires, that honor will go to the Fiat 500, which has a 139.6-inch footprint. Small didn’t mean cheap in this case, and the electric shift pushed the two-seater’s price up to $23,900, so buyers seeking a new car on a budget still have plenty of great (and more affordable) options to choose from.

Elsewhere in the world, the ForTwo nameplate will survive on a fourth-generation model expected to go on sale in 2022. Daimler sold a 50% stake in its Smart brand to Geely, the Chinese conglomerate which owns a variety of companies including Volvo, and the two plan to co-develop the model. Mercedes will design the car in its styling studios, while Geely’s research and development department will engineer everything under the body. Production will take place solely in China.

Have we seen the end of the Smart brand in America? Possibly not. Writing on Daimler’s official blog, outgoing CEO Dieter Zetsche said he hopes the deal with Geely will allow Smart to launch new models and enter new segments. One of them could be the booming SUV segment. Don’t expect a mammoth-sized seven-seater like the BMW X7, but a soft-roader in the vein of the Hyundai Kona isn’t out of the question, and that model could spearhead the firm’s American comeback.

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