The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be America's Smart Car

Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Smart

When you think of Smart — if you do — the vehicle that usually comes to mind is the second-generation Fortwo. Readers slightly more familiar with the brand may recall the sleek Roadster or maybe the Forfour. But Americans were never supposed to get the Smart Fortwo. Instead, we were slated to get the Smart Formore SUV.

What happened?

Smart’s European launch was met with fanfare. Mercedes-Benz, with the help of Swiss watchmaker Nicolas Hayek, helped make city cars fashionable. The Smart City Coupe even made it into the Museum of Modern Art. Before long, Smart’s factory in Hambach, France, was churning out as many cars as it could to meet demand. Meanwhile, Smart sought to expand the line with a convertible and the limited-production Crossblade. Future plans included the Roadster sports car and the Forfour four-seater.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Smart

While Smart was a sales success in Europe, the company wanted to expand further. Smart wanted to win the hearts of Americans.

In the early 2000s, large SUVs like the Lincoln Navigator and the Hummer H2 were hot. Americans couldn’t get enough trucks and SUVs. Smart’s largest vehicle would be dwarfed by a small pickup truck. Smart had just the thing. The automaker would enter the U.S. market with an SUV.

Smart made the Formore plans official in 2004 with the sketch you see at the top, just as U.S. importers were petitioning the NHTSA to import the Fortwo. Smart’s plans were ambitious, as the company wanted the new model to actually have some off-road chops. Via Autoweek:

“With the Smart Formore, we will be applying the typical Smart characteristics of innovation, functionality and joie de vivre to the SUV sector,” says Andreas Renschler, Smart president. “The Smart Formore will provide a driving experience loaded with adrenaline-off road as well as on-expressive design and a high utility value. It is the ideal model to launch the Smart brand in the U.S. market.”

Advertisement

It blows my mind they actually expected this thing to do some off-roading.

Per Autoweek, the baby Smart SUV was going to ride on a modified Mercedes-Benz C-Class platform bolstered by a beefy suspension and raised ride height. All-wheel-drive with a Mercedes 4Matic system was the plan, and it would offer the option of a 3.0-liter V6, too. The Formore would have been the second vehicle in the Smart lineup, after the first-generation Smart Forfour, to offer a true manual transmission. Looking at this Smart Forfour below, it appears the Formore was definitely inspired by its design.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Smart via Net Car Show

Oh, and it wasn’t going to be any SUV. No, SUV to Smart meant Smart Utility Vehicle. Yes, even I cringed when I read that.

Advertisement

The SUV was due to hit American roads in 2006. Production was to begin in late 2005 at DaimlerChrysler’s Juiz de Fora factory in Brazil. Projected sales were modest, with the marque expecting to move just 30,000 units a year. Regardless, mules and prototypes began appearing on roads as the production date grew nearer.

Everything seemed to be going so well. Regular updates were coming in well into 2005. So what happened? Why didn’t the Smart Formore ever reach production?

Advertisement

The answer traces back to what I said earlier about Smart’s sales success. See, while Smart was selling a lot of cars, the company never turned a profit. To make matters worse, the Smart Roadster was a warranty claim disaster. Right out of the factory these cars took on more water than a sinking ship. This led to high warranty claims.

Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Smart via Net Car Show
Advertisement

In September 2005, merely weeks before production was to start, Mercedes-Benz fully took over operations at Smart. Gone were the Roadster and Forfour; the Formore was cancelled. Concepts like the Crosstown would never see the light of day.

The marching orders were that Smart was to focus on profits over anything else, via Automotive News Europe:

“We will break even in 2007,” said [Smart] President Ulrich Walker. “That is our chief target and a clear signal to engineers: Don’t use your time for any fun project inside [the company].”

Advertisement

This is why Smart became a one-trick pony in 2007. The Fortwo would also mature a little, shedding its quirks and go-kart feel for something more pleasing to a wider audience.

Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Mercedes Streeter
Advertisement

As for the Formore? All mules and prototypes were destroyed. The only remnants of the Formore program are two vehicles. One is a matte gray show car with orange-tinted windows and a weird interior. That car was due to hit the Geneva Motor Show but it never made the debut. The first time the public saw it was when someone took pictures of it inside of a Daimler warehouse.

Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Jalopnik via Caradisiac
Advertisement
Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Jalopnik via Caradisiac
Illustration for article titled The Smart Formore SUV Was Going To Be Americas Smart Car
Photo: Jalopnik via Caradisiac
Advertisement

It has made numerous appearances online in various formats, including a blog from us. Many poked fun at the low-profile tires. However, I can forgive it because it was a show car. The other is a black production example, though no full pictures of it appear to exist. Mercedes blog jesmb.de captured more current pictures of the show car.

That’s the story about the Smart Formore. Whenever you question why Smart ever bothered sending over the Fortwo, remember, the Fortwo wasn’t a part of the original plan. As Smart heads into its new future with the help of Geely, the company is once again developing an SUV. That model is set to debut in 2022 and will be all-electric.

Advertisement

I contacted Daimler for further details about the Formore. Its representative said they could not make any materials available to me. Instead, they referred me to press releases that didn’t provide any useful information.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik and learning pilot. Loves all vehicles! Smart Fortwo (x4), Honda Beat, AmTran School Bus, VW Passat W8, Jetta TDI (x2), Audi TT, Buell Lightning, Suzuki Burgman, Yamaha U7E...

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

wasgtithengtothennovathengtinowa4
WasGTIthenGTOthenNOVAthenGTInowA4

Mercedes, in your alternate reality where everyone bought Smarts and they eventually became the #1 auto maker in the world, when did they jump the shark (like Mini) and just start building huge vehicles? 2014?