New Smart ForFour not expected in the United States this year due to high costs

Article by Anita Panait, on January 21, 2014

Consumers in Europe will welcome the arrival of the new Smart ForFour car this year, but those in the United States will not. Smart boss Annette Winkler said during the Detroit auto show that they have yet to decide whether to homologate the ForFour for the US, since the Daimler unit is still unsure whether there is a big enough market in the country for the car to justify the cost of homologation.

According to Winkler, the redesigned ForTwo -- which is wider and roomier than the current model -- may be enough to increase US sales. "There are other regulations to comply with, and to achieve what is needed here costs extra money," she said. Smart posted a 7-percent drop in sales in the US to 9,264 units in 2013.

Steve Cannon, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz USA, remarked that Smart is more of a 10,000 unit niche player than a volume brand.  He added that Smart’s fuel economy will help Mercedes-Benz comply with stringent future corporate average fuel economy regulations.

Cannon noted that while the entire US market gained last year, the microcar segment has shrunk. Despite that, Mercedes is still keeping the Smart brand in the US, since shutting down its sales network would have the carmaker pay the 92 dealers selling Smart. "We have allowed it to find its own level, and it has marketing and a $99 lease," Cannon said, referring to the lease rate for the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive car.

Smart has trimmed the monthly lease rate, which included a monthly fee of $80 to rent the battery, from $199 to $99 for the 2014 model year.  Smart started selling the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive car in May 2013 only in the so-called CARB states with tighter emissions standards.  Smart sold 921 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive car in the US in 2013. Sales in all 50 states will start in February. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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