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Mercedes-Benz’s Smart division has always been a niche offering, with various versions of the Fortwo model commanding a premium price for a subcompact car without most of the benefits of a hatchback. Smart has kept the more compelling Forfour model out of the U.S. while neglecting to change the basic formula of the Fortwo through several updates. Gasoline prices have effectively eroded some of the Smart lineup’s appeal, as have EV competitors that offer much larger interiors.
Smart’s peak in popularity in the U.S. market has arguably passed, and the question is now whether the brand can keep afloat in the U.S. at all amid a mass dealer movement for the exits.
Mercedes-Benz asked its Smart dealers to decide by the end of June if they wished to continue offering the sole Fortwo model; out of 85 current dealers just 27 indicated they will stay, Automotive News reports. This represents a departure of more than two thirds of all stores — 58 dealers said they will be moving to a service-only business for the remaining models, according to a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson.
A shift to a redesigned electric-only Fortwo this summer will keep the brand relevant in EV-heavy markets — gasoline models will be dropped entirely, but it will have to compete with EVs that offer far more than its 80 miles on a full charge along with four seats and a real-life trunk. The redesigned Fortwo’s 80-mile range is effectively limited by the car’s footprint — there is a very finite space for any battery — and absent a miracle breathrough in battery technology this maximum range will not grow appreciably as its rivals continue to push battery tech further. This means by the end of the current model’s product cycle a doubling of range even to 160 miles is just not in the cards, restricting the Fortwo to those who need an EV for a short, fixed commute.