We have an update on Smart’s future. It’s looking less of an evolution and more of a total rebranding. Smart is likely to build not just one, but two SUVs. And if that’s not nuts enough, the brand wants to shake off its playful image and go premium. It’s disappointing.
Next year, Smart will release its first SUV into the world. While some purists denounced the decision, I supported it. High volume SUVs pay the bills and allow car brands to have fun doing other things. However, per a report from Automotive News Europe, Smart is doing more than just releasing an SUV. Daniel Lescow, vice president of global sales for Smart Automobile, says Smart is likely to build two SUVs.
Both vehicles would roll on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) electric platform. This scalable platform is set to underpin a lot of electric vehicles under Geely’s umbrella.
Smart is my favorite car manufacturer. I currently own four Fortwos and plan on importing a Crossblade and a Roadster one day. I can basically recite brochures and manuals like they were religious text. But this latest move has me scratching my head. I want to keep rooting for the brand but even I’m finding it hard.
Smart is going to through a major overhaul. Lescow said, via Automotive News Europe:
Vehicle length alone is no longer a decisive factor for us ... we have redefined the requirements for Smart.
We want to radiate even more premium and not appear quite so playful.
The change is baffling. Smart built its brand on being the playful tiny city car. It’s the car that took pride in being a bit daft. Why minimize that character? People complained about rough transmissions and meager fuel economy, not that the cars were too playful. At the same time, we shouldn’t be surprised. Smart pulled out of supporting the massive Smart Times festival after 2018, signaling a big change.
Smart’s last attempt at moving upmarket was with the third-generation Fortwo and second-generation Forfour. These cars featured higher-quality interiors than their predecessors and included tech like parking sensors and anti-collision radar. The new SUVs will take it a step further with cloud-based updates and partial automation tech.
Of course, trying to build a pair of premium SUVs runs into the risk of cannibalizing sales of Smart’s Mercedes-Benz parent. Lescow says the new Smarts will not steal sales from Mercedes’ compact range, including the A-Class and GLA. He says the brand will remain accessible. Smart will take advantage of the lower production costs that come from making cars in China.
But fine, Smart is ditching much of its principles to chase that sweet profit. If size is no longer a factor and the vehicles will be fully electric, does that mean Smart is coming back to the U.S.?
Nope. Lescow confirms that Smart will not be making a return to the States any time soon. Instead, Smart will lean heavily on the Chinese market for its future.
The potential is vast, not only in Europe but also in China. SUVs are becoming the most popular of all passenger vehicles in China. But don’t worry, our new SUV won’t just be for China – we’ll be bringing it to European markets.
I have no doubt these new SUVs will bring in the cash that Smart so desperately needs. I’m just not sure that they also needed to dilute what made Smart so weird in the first place. I hope these SUVs don’t join the endless line of bland premium SUV clones.