The general manager of Smart USA believes that a new generation of electric car could provide the microcar brand the momentum it needs until an all-new vehicle is rolled out in 2015. Tracey Matura remarked that the third-generation of ForTwo Electric Drive car could account for around 30% of Smart's sales in the U.S. in a full year.
The newest generation of the Smart ForTwo will be rolled out in the spring with a starting price of $25,750, including shipping -- making it the least expensive electric vehicle on the market. Smart has improved the smart ForTwo’s top speed and 0-to-60 mph acceleration time, with the range significantly boosted from 63 miles to around 91 miles, Matura said.
The electric vehicle will be available as a hardtop or as a convertible for an additional $3,000. Dimensions of the third-generation ForTwo remain the same as the gasoline-powered one, which measures just 106 inches in length.
The carmaker posted a 104-percent increase in sales for the first 10 months of October to 8,309 cars. However, Smart is unlikely to surpass its sales peak of 24,622 posted in 2008, the first year that the ForTwo was rolled out in the US.
According to Matura, the Smart brand gained the much-needed recognition thanks to intense marketing, including TV commercials. Mercedes-Benz took over distribution of Smart in July 2011 from the Penske Automotive Group, which did not pursue TV advertising and relied only on grassroots marketing. Although Smart still has low brand recognition, Matura noted that improved marketing "and putting the product out there with the right dealers," have helped increase sales figures from a low of 5,208 cars in 2011.
The carmaker will continue to sell only one vehicle, the smart ForTwo -- until it rolls out a larger and more modern replacement in three years, followed by a four-seat unit in 2016. The electric variant of the ForTwo is expected to give Smart the needed boost to keep growing sales and to attract eco-conscious buyers, Matura said.