Smart has had a rough existence as an automaker. The company spent its first years making weird and trendy cars but burning cash. It then entered the U.S. with the wrong kind of car and pulled out after years of slow sales. Now with the help of Geely, Smart has just the right idea to potentially prosper: building an SUV.
In 2019, Daimler and Geely Holding Group announced that the Chinese automaker was taking a 50 percent stake in Smart, with Geely responsible for engineering and production. There has been talk of Smart building a battery-electric SUV for some time, but now we have more details, via a Linkedin post by Daniel Lescow, vice president of global sales for Smart Automobile.
The new SUV will ride on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) electric platform, which will also be the basis for the next-generation Fortwo and Forfour models. Geely’s design for the platform makes it scalable for use on a variety of different size vehicles.
The new vehicle will also build on Smart’s design traits of being like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, small on the outside and big on the inside. Like the Fortwos of old, the SUV will focus on urban mobility. Lescow’s post also notes that the vehicle will maintain Smart’s characteristic design and safety. So it should basically be like the Smarts we all know, just bigger and electric.
The first Geely-engineered Smarts are slated to hit the road in 2022. As of now, it appears the company does not plan on returning to the U.S., instead focusing on the Chinese and European markets. I find that a little odd — if there is any Smart that would sell well here, it would probably be an SUV.
Yes, the company most known for tiny city cars is building an SUV. Once you stop laughing, I will inform you that this actually isn’t the first time the marque has made a SUV. When Smart drew up its plans to come to the U.S., it was going to do so with an SUV, not the Fortwos we actually got. That SUV got killed right before production — a wild story for another day.
Smart’s second try at an SUV is coming at a time when SUVs and crossovers are taking over the world. I know some Smart purists are upset that the company is now partly owned by Geely, but I see it as a good thing. Geely knows a thing or two about brand revivals.