Daimler announced in February that it would stop sending gasoline-powered models to North America this summer and move exclusively to EVs after inventory levels decline. Dealers had until the end of June to decide if they wanted to be a part of the next wave of personal mobility.
With Smart swapping to electric-only drivetrains for U.S. retailers, we assumed the majority of Mercedes-Benz dealers still clinging onto the microscopic Fortwo would abandon it — as would every standalone Smart store still in existence.
Smart only sold 54 electric models within the United States between January and May, so it’s understandable that this summer saw over two-thirds of all retailers opting out of the deal. That leaves Smart with only 27 sanctioned stores within the United States, making it more exclusive than Lotus, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even Rolls-Royce.
According to Automotive News, while only a few outlets will continue sales, 58 agreed to continue servicing Smart vehicles. However, company spokeswoman Donna Boland admitted those numbers are preliminary. More dealers could opt out of both sales and service as the year progresses.
Penske Automotive Group, which originally launched Smart in the United States in 2008 as an independent distributor, plans to drop sales at all but one of its existing outlets, according to Tony Pordon, Penske’s executive vice president of investor relations. Penske’s remaining store is in San Diego, which has the highest EV sales potential of the bunch.
In fact, Daimler expects most of the persisting Smart dealerships to be geographically anchored to large cities or areas with exceptionally strong green initiatives — like the State of California. One of the few exceptions was Germain Motor Group in Columbus, Ohio. However, Germain only decided to stick with Smart after the city promoted its own mobility initiative.
“Columbus has established itself as a leader in electrification with its ‘Smart Columbus’ initiative,” Germain COO John Malishenko explained. “It’s well funded and focused on making Columbus a leader in alternative transportation solutions, so for that reason, we’ve decided to stay put.”
That’s likely to leave the majority of Smart’s on-road presence to regions that promote EV ownership through government tax breaks and Daimler’s Car2Go rental service. However, even though the car-sharing platform reached 2 million members in 2016, the business has begun replacing its pint-sized fleet with Mercedes-Benz CLAs and GLAs. While Smart cars will remain for drivers who want the cheaper option, Daimler plans to convert the bulk of its rental fleet to larger vehicles by next year.
[Images: Daimler AG]