Smart changes course, focuses on electric cars in the US

2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive- first drive Miami Nov 2016

2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive- first drive Miami Nov 2016 Enlarge

The sale of gasoline-powered Smart micro cars will end with the current 2017 models. That's a fraction of Smart's global sales of 144,479 in 2016.

"A dedicated focus on the electric drive in the US and Canada provides a logical step to support a sustainable, zero-emissions future", Mercedes-Benz USA head Dietmar Exler wrote in a letter addressed to dealers. Mercedes-Benz racked in 6,211 Smart auto sales in the 2016, a 16 percent drop from 2015. "Therefore, with the launch of the fourth-generation Smart ForTwo electric drive this summer, the Smart lineup will consist exclusively of the zero-emissions Smart electric-drive coupe and cabrio in the US and Canada", wrote Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Sales of the Smart had never been especially strong in North America, with drivers in Germany, Italy, and China all taking more to the tiny vehicle.

In a letter to dealers obtained by, Smart announced the demise of gasoline versions of both the hardtop and convertible ForTwo, but said it still plans to sell the ForTwo Electric Drive, a battery-powered version of the vehicle. Smart Electric Drive sales have been as high as 2,594 units in the US (2014).

Smart plans to axe its gas-powered ForTwo city auto in North America, and focus entirely on the plug-in electric version of the two-seater. The subsidiary of Daimler, which is also Mercedes-Benz's parent company, will only sell electric vehicles beginning in the 2018 model year. A 17.6 kilowatt-hour battery will power the cars, which all have around 100 miles of range and a top speed of 80 miles per hour, according to the auto company.

The Smart auto was introduced at a time when gas prices were significantly higher than they have been over the last few years, which drove the popularity of the smaller cars that were lighter and would get better gas mileage than bigger, heavier cars.

The gasoline Smart Fortwo was powered by a 0.9-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 89 horsepower. When the vehicle came to the USA market in 2008, it was unlike anything that Americans had seen in large numbers in a long time.

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