The tiny, two-person Smart cars once pitched as the next big thing in urban mobility will be discontinued in the United States and Canada at the end of the current model year, German automaker Daimler AG said on Monday.
Smart cars, with their unique styling and ability to fit in half a parking space, found an audience in densely populated U.S. and Canadian cities. But that audience was small and rapidly declining.
Canadian sales of Smart vehicles fell 6.3 per cent to just 345 units in 2018 after the car went fully electric. U.S. Smart sales in 2018 were 1,276, a drop of 58 per cent.
The Smart brand’s electric cars offered just 93 kilometres of driving range. Competing models such as the “mid-range” Tesla Model 3, with an estimated range of 523 kilometres, offered more range and more room for passengers and cargo.
Daimler ended sales of gasoline-fuelled Smart cars in 2017.
The cars were used by the Car2Go car-sharing service which pulled out of the Toronto market last year because of difficulties with parking. The car-sharing service now operates in other Canadian cities, including Vancouver and Calgary, under the name Share Now.
Small car sales to consumers have suffered because of relatively cheap gasoline and a preference for larger trucks and sport utility vehicles.
Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand, in a statement, cited “a number of factors” for the decision to end Smart’s run in the United States and Canada, “including a declining micro-car market in the U.S. and Canada, combined with the costs required to bring the European-designed Smart in line with North American regulations.
Mercedes plans to bring new, larger electric vehicles to the United States, starting with the launch of the EQC sport utility next year. Those vehicles will help Mercedes meet zero emission vehicle quotas in California and other states.
Mercedes dealers will still offer parts and repairs for Smart cars, the company said.
Daimler has said it will enter into a joint venture with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to build a new generation of Smart models in a purpose-built electric-car factory in China with global sales to begin in 2022.