Daimler pulls the plug on electric smart car sales in US, Canada

Daimler is ending sales of its diminutive all-electric smart fortwo cars in the U.S. and Canada, officially pulling the plug on a vehicle that has struggled to gain ground in North America as the German automaker prepares to bring the brand to China, TechCrunch has learned.

Smart won’t be sold in the U.S. and Canada after the 2019 model year, Daimler AG confirmed after two sources familiar with the decision shared the information with TechCrunch.

“After much careful consideration, smart will discontinue its battery-electric smart EQ fortwo model in the U.S. and Canadian markets at the conclusion of MY2019,” a Daimler AG spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. “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.”

MBUSA and Mercedes-Benz Canada will continue to provide owners of gasoline-powered and electric smart fortwo models with access to service and replacement parts via smart and authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers, the company told TechCrunch.

Model years begin and end mid-year, suggesting that June will be the final month of production. Sales of the vehicles will continue through end the of the year.

Daimler isn’t killing off the smart vehicle altogether. Daimler announced in March it was forming a joint venture with Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to transform smart into an all-electric brand based in China. Under the agreement, the quirky vehicles will be assembled at a new factory in China. Global sales are expected to begin in 2022, Daimler said at the time.

The company’s Mercedes-Benz brand will carry forward its electric strategy in the U.S. and Canada with the arrival of the new EQC in 2020, the company spokesperson said.

The German automaker has for some time been signaling that smart could leave the U.S. market. Daimler has invested heavily in the urban dweller brand — a departure from its sleek and stout luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles. And yet despite several model variants and a switch from gas to electric, the vehicle never met Daimler’s annual sales goals in North America. The company stopped selling the gas version of smart in the U.S. and Canada after the 2017 model year.

Other recent moves provided hints that smart’s time in the U.S. was limited.

Smart CEO Annette Winkler left last fall and was replaced by Katrin Adt, a human resources executive focused on reshaping the brand’s future. Daimler announced Monday that Adt was taking over management of a new unit, Mercedes-Benz Cars Own Retail Europe, as of July 2019.

Adt will report to Britta Seeger, a member of Daimler’s board of management who is responsible for Mercedes-Benz cars sales.

The vehicle, which was born out of a partnership with Daimler and Swatch watch makers SMH, started with a gas engine. It launched in 1998 in Europe, before heading to Canada six years later. It didn’t make it to the U.S. until 2008.

Smart was the only vehicle available under Daimler’s Car2go car-sharing brand. However, Car2go, which was recently rebranded as Share Now, has expanded its lineup to include Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA models. Some remaining smarts may remain with Car2go, which is an independent entity from MBUSA.