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CES Las Vegas 2018

1573 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Jo e Lefors
smart and Mercedes will have vehicles on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week including the smart Vision EQ concept and the 2018 smart Fortwo Electric Drive.

Will any current, former, or potential smart owners reading this be attending?
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In Las Vegas last week I got the chance to first meet and later have lunch with Annette Winkler (smart CEO) and Dietmar Exler (MBUSA CEO) to discuss smart in the United States. I have my notes at home and will have to review them to refresh my memory of everything we discussed.

As we knew, smart will continue as a brand in the United States as an electric vehicle brand only and isn't going away. Mercedes will be launching a lot of all-electric vehicles soon and is looking to keep smart around and let the smart brand and the Mercedes' EQ sub-brand learn from each other. smart will continue to have a small place in the US market as an electric vehicle.

The remaining dealers will be repaid by smartUSA for their marketing efforts to do local marketing since it doesn't make any sense to do national advertising for a brand with ~26 dealers mostly on the coasts. I know this was a sore spot of some people on the forum. We discussed some ideas that successful dealers in California and Florida were using to help people learn about and eventually buy smart cars. Our meeting was great to have almost every dealership in the country represented by their brand manager, General Manager, Sales Manager or owner to bounce ideas off each other to see what works and what doesn't in local marketing ideas and how we can best serve smart owners. Each city is a little different and they is not a one-size-fits-all technique for smart. We discussed charging infrastructure in the US, the absence of an app for the 453 EV, and other issues/ideas. It was nice to see that the remaining dealers are serious about continuing to sell the electric smarts.

The 453 EV is selling in Europe faster than they can make them with a large waiting list. If there is something particular you want in your car, tell your dealer soon or they may not be able to get it for you. Most inventory will go to meet the large European demand.

We got to see the new 10th Anniversary Edition that is being produced now in limited numbers. Great color combination if you can grab one.

We got to see the future "connected, autonomous, shared, electric" smart Fortwo EQ with no steering wheel, no pedals, large touchscreen, and doors that open vertically. THAT was very cool. Below is a picture of Annette in the autonomous smart.


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I'm torn by that information. Annette Winkler hits the USA and not a peep from the mothership in Atlanta, not to mention the mysterious absence of a smart USA executive, if there is one. You know who has good ideas about marketing smarts? The owners. In the past we could get up close with the head of smart USA, whether the Penske version or the first M-B USA iteration. Since Tracey Matura left the New Jersey HQ the owners have apparently been put on ignore by smart USA. IMHO, the way to sell smarts is to get prospective buyers behind the wheel for test drives, and to let them talk with current owners. Past suggestions that dealerships hold special events with current smart owners to familiarize possible buyers with the car went nowhere.

It's good that smart seems to think there is market for a 58 mile range electric car in the US - that's the definition of optimism. Every new EV at the Detroit show this month will have more range, and the ones in the pipeline will do even better. They are not smarts, for sure, but the EV game now seems focused on range and charging time - neither of which the smart ED excels at.

I'm hoping for the best for the smart brand here, but I think the powers that be see the markets as elsewhere and I won't be greatly surprised if Mercedes rolled up the smart USA operation in a few years, citing "flagging sales." :shrug:
smartUSA's executives and other personnel were present. I assumed (correctly) that they are not household names.

Test drive events to get more people behind the wheel were a very major focus of the discussion among all the dealerships and smartUSA personnel. I'm more than happy to pass along realistic, cost-efficient ideas (and implement them for my dealership).

The EV smart is a niche product, this is well understood. The vast majority of Americans do not drive more than 30 miles on the vast majority of the days each year (People who bought the gas version tended to be looking for fuel-efficiency and are often outliers who drive more than this average. The EV driver is not the same as the ICE smart driver). Americans do over-consume and over-estimate their needs, so test drives (possibly overnight/extended) may be a way to let people experience the car and see that it would work for them. Every EV new at the Detroit Auto show was also significantly more expensive and larger in size than a smart EV, whose advantages include its ability to park in tiny spaces and being the least expensive all electric highway legal 4-wheel vehicle in the USA.
The 453 EV charges at about 21 miles of range per hour on 240V/30A. One hour of charge while grabbing dinner or shopping is enough to get me back and forth to work in a 453. Of course smart wants to be faster and go further in the future- did you see the concept car that's being developed? The 453 just came out. I would have loved faster/further, but I realize that products have a lifecycle and it will be this vehicle for a few years. Lease a 2017/2018 now and see what the future holds in 3 years.
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