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Smart – few signs of life as we know it 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Fri, 15th December 2017 19:34:07 GMT

Smart fortwo ED 2017MY charging

Daimler’s well-oiled publicity machine, at least for the time being, is kept busy with the supply of yet another win, win, win story of the re-crowned Mercedes car brand. However, judged purely from the Stuttgart carmaker’s latest monthly data set, its Smart car brand still appears stuck in neutral at best.

Mercedes’ latest vain attempt to generate at least some enthusiasm for its current smart cars is tellingly illustrated by latest hard sales figures. 

In sharp contrast with its upwardly mobile Mercedes Cars stable-mate, November sales of the smart brand continued their slide down the slippery slope. 

This time by 7.3 per cent to 11,644 units, reducing this year’s global eleven months smart car sales total by 5.1 per cent to a lowly 123,130 units.

Likelihood now is that this year’s global smart sales will likely fall to less than the 144,479 units sold during the whole of last year. 

The main problem for Daimler’s smart car brand is that at a time of comparatively cheap fuel European consumers have continued to gravitate towards larger cars and to SUV-Crossovers in particular. 

While adding more lift to the already high-flying Mercedes car balloon, for its smart brand these trends meant strengthening headwinds.

Even in Italy, a historical sales bastion for smart, this year’s sales have evidently failed to keep pace with a still fast recovering new car market. 

The crux of the problem, a trend echoed across the entire car market, Italy’s Crossover sales in November soared 38.1 per cent and by a no less lively 30.8 per cent during the eleven months to November. 

A rare plus point for the smart brand, this November, German sales of the smart brand grew more than twice as fast as the overall market. 

This encouraging uplift in sales was fuelled by a strong and outwardly impressive surge from the electric smart version. 

Some 808 of the 3,928 smarts newly registered in Germany this November were pure electric BEV versions. 

One wonders how many of these ended up in Daimler’s Car2Go fleet rather than genuine customers’ drives. 

The first generation smart project is infamous as one of the autoindustry’s biggest financial flops. 

Prior to the launch of today’s all-new Smart, according to estimates by Bernstein’s analyst Max Warburton, the smart venture has racked up more than €4 billion in losses. 

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, to all intents and purposes, stepping into the footsteps of its predecessor, the current joint-venture smart project already looks like turning into yet another flop. 

However, it remains to be seen if Mercedes’ latest ‘Wunderwaffe’ - all-electric smart - can succeed where the ICE powered version has failed to deliver.

Smart losses? 

Who cares? 

Zero-emission cars like the all-electric smart range sold in EU Europe can significantly reduce the autoindustry’s potentially sky-high future penalties for exceeding the EU’s mandatory 95g/km limit from 2021 onwards. 

Evidently a no-brainer. If future financial losses from today’s smart brand are lower than ‘Mercedes Cars’ generated future EU penalty payments for exceeding these EU fleet average CO2 limits with teeth, the otherwise luckless smart car range, albeit the BEV versions, will see another day.

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