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That was the path smart was taking prior to its 2006 liquidation.

Had smart copied BMW's playbook, it could have been possible that smart would have been a MINI competitor today.

YOY sales in smart's home markets seem to suggest waning interest. The best sales year for the fortwo in its home markets was in 2002 (the 450's facelift and release of the crossblade). The last time sales were near 2002 levels was in 2008 (first full year of 451 sales).

The 453 hasn't come anywhere close, and even if you toss in forfour sales for filler, it still doesn't surpass what the fortwo did all by itself in 2002. 2017 saw a decline in home market smart sales, trailing the previous year by 6k units. This year continues that trend.

MB has made up the slack with Chinese sales. While smart sales are on a downward trend in Europe and the US, China continues to be a big winner. MB doesn't release smart sales figures for China, however reports seem to indicate sales are sharply rising in China. Of course, the sales success in China isn't going to last forever.

What's on the road ahead? I'm not sure. I also wonder why the sales response to the 453 has been lukewarm, at best.
 

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Different vehicles, different markets, it wouldn't be anything like the product it is today if MB had gone down that route. In addition, while MINI is a success, it is still stealing sales from the bottom end of the BMW badges range, so as a group the set up isn't entirely satisfactory for Bayarische Motoren Weken. And this is a problem for MB as well - the A class has been revamped and repositioned in the market to appeal to exactly the young trendy types who would buy a MINI - any MB MINI equivalent would simply kick A class sales in the plums.

It was Rovers playbook, not BMWs, that created the brand success. But the success has also bought problems too. During the bad times of the late 00s sales plummeted, as unnecessarily expensive lifestyle products the world over took a sales hit. Staff were laid off, production wound right back, and it was the parent company who shovelled money into the brand to keep it afloat during those years. The trendy lifestyle market is very fickle, and when the going is good is great, but when things get bad it's disproportionately so, and that's probably a good enough reason on its own for MB to steer clear. If MB went into it now, started spending big money developing models, a brand, building production facilities, investing further billions, its liable to hit the market at or close to the next cyclical recession. Not a good plan for those that look at the bigmpicture economically.

Something else to consider...MINI was a project acquired by BMW from Rover Group, who had planned and developed the first model almost to the point where it was ready for production. Indeed, the models are built in a historic old Rover (and Austin, BL etc before that) factory. It's market penetration and initial success were luck on BMWs part, and the (for a change) good judgement and planning on Rovers part. It's difficult to emulate luck.

One could just as easily argue that BMW should be copying Smart. Thanks to MB we all know the market exists and is now well established, it's not beyond the wit of man for BTW to extend their range even further downwards to include a true city/eco model of their own.

I suspect MB regard Smart as a vanity brand, where they can test ideas, trends, fashions, without risking harm to the Merceds brand itself if it all goes wrong. They've subisidesd it to the tune of billions over the years with no profit on the investment, so there must be a reason why they persist and I suspect that is as good as any. In BMWs case they bought a successful, carefully studied, almost completed project from someone else, so the reasons for it's success were little to do with them, and the MINI brands reason for being is entirely different. MB are probably canny enough to realise that that can't emulate BMWs success in that market, because it's was never really BMWs to emulate in the first place. Could have got mess.

And one final obstacle, and this is a major problem - Mercedes don't have an iconic small car from history upon which to base the project. They dont have a MINI, a Beetle, a Fiat 500, or a 2CV of their own, and no manufacturer seems to be selling the rights to one right now, so to emulate BMW is an utter non starter, even of they wanted to. Nostalgia aint what it used to be.
 

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The carbuzz.com writers "world" view is from behind the keyboard at the southernmost tip of South Africa and doesn't necessarily reflect our U.S. "smart Center" reality.

The renault/twingo/nissan - smart (Renault-Nissan Alliance with Daimler AG) as we know it has no future in N.A.

Speaking of that - will the smart EQ brand roll into all M-B Franchises for sales, service and parts or will it be outback under the few remaining smart Center tents?
 

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Mercedes-Benz reports that the smart brand started making a profit during the early years of the 451. The popularity of smart in China further distances it from it past of burning MB's cash.
A big reason smart burned billions in the past is because of mismanagement and poor quality. Early 450s were plagued with engine issues. They released the roadster long before it was ready (smart spent much more money on warranty claims than money they made on sales), the forfour was a dud, and while all that was happened they decided "ah heck, let's build a SUV!" They were trying to be like BMW's MINI, but doing poorly at it.

MB's taking it slow from 2007 and on has shown to be a good move for the brand. The evolution of smart into an EV-only brand will be interesting to watch.
 
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I haven't kept up on how driverless cars are being received in Europe, but I know the issues and questions they face here in the United States. I can't imagine they would be any better in the old, crowded European cities with crowded, narrow, winding, and unmarked streets where they are most needed.

I am still a fan of the notion of creating a progression of more expensive cars when the goal is to get a customer to buy an aspirational vehicle. I've read some time ago that mini has done that for BMW, that more mini owners eventually purchase a new BMW than previous owners of other makes. It's just a matter of keeping the feel of the vehicles relatively similar in terms of controls and handling so that the higher end vehicle feels familiar but just better. I thought with the 451 they may have initially tried to do so with the heavier than typical, and typical of German, control feel, along with the safe levels of understeer. But it seems somewhere along the way, there was a change of direction.
 

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I haven't kept up on how driverless cars are being received in Europe, but I know the issues and questions they face here in the United States. I can't imagine they would be any better in the old, crowded European cities with crowded, narrow, winding, and unmarked streets where they are most needed.

I am still a fan of the notion of creating a progression of more expensive cars when the goal is to get a customer to buy an aspirational vehicle. I've read some time ago that mini has done that for BMW, that more mini owners eventually purchase a new BMW than previous owners of other makes. It's just a matter of keeping the feel of the vehicles relatively similar in terms of controls and handling so that the higher end vehicle feels familiar but just better. I thought with the 451 they may have initially tried to do so with the heavier than typical, and typical of German, control feel, along with the safe levels of understeer. But it seems somewhere along the way, there was a change of direction.
The 453 was an amazing improvement, I've never been in a vehicle that realistically maintains the original engineering intentions while also improving in so many ways. Most other cars get "better" by upgrading paint, body cladding, and increasing in size. That's not really an engineering improvement. The smart was revamped in so many ways it'd take up the time needed for a college lecture.

The 453 is continually overlooked mainly because of the 451's reputation (fair or not) of being an underpowered + rough shifting car (gas), short range (EV), a modest increase in cost, the exaggerated early fuel tank capacity concerns, the ditching of fossil fuels in favor of an essentially city-range-only EV, as well as more EV and hybrid models to choose from by other manufacturers.

But those factors still have nothing to do with the dramatic engineering improvements of the 453 over the 451.
 

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The carbuzz.com writers "world" view is from behind the keyboard at the southernmost tip of South Africa and doesn't necessarily reflect our U.S. "smart Center" reality.
Z
The renault/twingo/nissan - smart (Renault-Nissan Alliance with Daimler AG) as we know it has no future in N.A.

Speaking of that - will the smart EQ brand roll into all M-B Franchises for sales, service and parts or will it be outback under the few remaining smart Center tents?
Uhm... I have to point out that although the author "hails" from here, there's no telling, as far as I can see, where's he's writing from currently, although his focus does seem to be on the US market, at least in the early paragraphs. Don't have time to read the whole thing now, sorry.

As a matter of interest, on my latest visit about six weeks ago to the local MB dealer there was exactly one smart on display, and a couple of months ago none at all... Can't remember when last I've seen a smart ad on TV, but it must be at least a year ago. IMO their marketing locally is atrociously nonexistent... :crying:
 

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Uhm... I have to point out that although the author "hails" from here, there's no telling, as far as I can see, where's he's writing from currently, although his focus does seem to be on the US market, at least in the early paragraphs. Don't have time to read the whole thing now, sorry.
Umm, in his own words . . .

Roger Biermann
Motoring Journalist
Johannesburg Area, South Africa

 

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Umm, in his own words . . .

Roger Biermann
Motoring Journalist
Johannesburg Area, South Africa


:eek::shrug: Oh dear, I don't see that anywhere on that page...! Is it at the top, just below his name? I clicked on his name, which was hardly visible on my iPad, and that took me to a short resume, but also no indication of where he's writing from.
 

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Oh dear, I don't see that anywhere on that page...! Is it at the top, just below his name? I clicked on his name, which was hardly visible on my iPad, and that took me to a short resume, but also no indication of where he's writing from.
LinkedIn . . .
 

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LinkedIn . . .

:blowingup: Aaah...! I must say then I don't know how he can see himself as being qualified to write about the international motoring scene, with a focus on the US scene, what with our tiny market and selective model ranges. Granted, he probably does a lot of research, but very little he writes will really be based on first-hand knowledge and/or experience. But most casual readers would probably not even notice or, if they did, mind. :surrender:
 

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The 453 was an amazing improvement, I've never been in a vehicle that realistically maintains the original engineering intentions while also improving in so many ways. Most other cars get "better" by upgrading paint, body cladding, and increasing in size. That's not really an engineering improvement. The smart was revamped in so many ways it'd take up the time needed for a college lecture.

The 453 is continually overlooked mainly because of the 451's reputation (fair or not) of being an underpowered + rough shifting car (gas), short range (EV), a modest increase in cost, the exaggerated early fuel tank capacity concerns, the ditching of fossil fuels in favor of an essentially city-range-only EV, as well as more EV and hybrid models to choose from by other manufacturers.

But those factors still have nothing to do with the dramatic engineering improvements of the 453 over the 451.
I agree with you that the 453 didn't get the attention that it deserved, especially from me. I have driven and ridden in a 453 and really like how it was improved mechanically and would have bought one. But I just couldn't stand the way it looks. I know that looks is subjective and people like different things (like the old Pontiac Aztek, etc.) but I fell in love with the look of the 450 and then the 451 since it didn't really change that much in looks. When they came out with the 453 with the big bulbious nose sticking out I just couldn't stomach it and it was a complete turnoff for me even though it was so vastly improved. It is ashame that you just can't take the body of a 451 and put it on a 453 or I would have done so. So I decided to just buy two used 451's and keep them roadworthy even with their so called poor reputation. I figure I'm probably in the minority here and it probably doesn't play much of a part of the 453 not catching on or getting the attention that it deserves, but in my case the change of looks did just that and stopped my purchase of a new one. But then again, that's just me and I know looks is subjective and that is why there are so many different looks of cars. At least I will do my part to keep the 451 style and memory alive :)
 

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I agree with you that the 453 didn't get the attention that it deserved, especially from me. I have driven and ridden in a 453 and really like how it was improved mechanically and would have bought one. But I just couldn't stand the way it looks. I know that looks is subjective and people like different things (like the old Pontiac Aztek, etc.) but I fell in love with the look of the 450 and then the 451 since it didn't really change that much in looks. When they came out with the 453 with the big bulbious nose sticking out I just couldn't stomach it and it was a complete turnoff for me even though it was so vastly improved. It is ashame that you just can't take the body of a 451 and put it on a 453 or I would have done so. So I decided to just buy two used 451's and keep them roadworthy even with their so called poor reputation. I figure I'm probably in the minority here and it probably doesn't play much of a part of the 453 not catching on or getting the attention that it deserves, but in my case the change of looks did just that and stopped my purchase of a new one. But then again, that's just me and I know looks is subjective and that is why there are so many different looks of cars. At least I will do my part to keep the 451 style and memory alive :)
I'm still a strong believer that the 453 should have been more faithfully based on the fourjoy concept. The rake of the windscreen and bonnet eliminated the bulbous nose.



And I used to say that smart did it to appease pedestrian safety standards, however the Renault Twingo that shares many/most of its parts with the fortwo manages to have the rake of the fourjoy concept. In fact, the Twingo rates measurably better for pedestrian safety than its smart twin does.



And while I do seem to be complaining, you know if smart releases a next gen car (assuming the next gen car isn't a self-driving "Uber") I'll be all over it. I still need to pick up an ED. >:D
 
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I agree with you that the 453 didn't get the attention that it deserved, especially from me. I have driven and ridden in a 453 and really like how it was improved mechanically and would have bought one. But I just couldn't stand the way it looks. I know that looks is subjective and people like different things (like the old Pontiac Aztek, etc.) but I fell in love with the look of the 450 and then the 451 since it didn't really change that much in looks. When they came out with the 453 with the big bulbious nose sticking out I just couldn't stomach it and it was a complete turnoff for me even though it was so vastly improved. It is ashame that you just can't take the body of a 451 and put it on a 453 or I would have done so. So I decided to just buy two used 451's and keep them roadworthy even with their so called poor reputation. I figure I'm probably in the minority here and it probably doesn't play much of a part of the 453 not catching on or getting the attention that it deserves, but in my case the change of looks did just that and stopped my purchase of a new one. But then again, that's just me and I know looks is subjective and that is why there are so many different looks of cars. At least I will do my part to keep the 451 style and memory alive :)
I really, really didn't like the 453 when I saw the first photos of its release. The front reminded me of the British cartoon character Wallace in Wallace and Gromit. But you know what, while watching videos on Youtube and seeing it in real life at the dealer it grew on me and now it's sort of cute in a whole different way than my 451! I guess I'm easy... :laugh::D
 

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The 453 might be a better platform, then the 451. The original smart consumer, sure didn’t warm up to its looks. The box and half profile, is homely. Compare to the 451. What happen to the 27k original 451 owners, back in 2008. No consumer loyalty. December of 2016 was the best month for the ICE, 453 model here. Over 1,000 units, that month. smart lost 2/3’s of its dealer network. Only offering a EV. Still MB, hasn’t advertised the 453. The consumer didn’t know, there was a new model. That was a improvement over the 451.

Only selling 103 cars, last month. That’s sad.
 

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Yes, Miss Mercedes, the rake of the windshield down the hood to the front is, to me, one of the 450 and 451's most attractive feature and defined the smart 'look' and gave it a more aero appearance. I especially liked the peanut headlights of some of the 450's. Even though the 451's have different headlights it still did not take away from the angled unique look and still complimented it. Now, and this is just to me, the 453's look like a bug that has been squeezed until the headlights and front popped out. Again, nothing against the 453 owners out there at all.
 

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This artist's conception of a 4 door smart, I would think, would have been a more attractive style (maybe with exception of changing the suicide doors on the back to regular type).
 

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Random thoughts ...



Having seen them in person ... The Twingo is a much better looking car than the smart forfour. The proportions are better, the slope of the rear window makes more sense (in place of the smart's near-vertical tail), and it doesn't have the 453's (my opinion) disjointed "tridion" body lines and mismatched colours. I think the designers of the smart were trying too hard.



Speaking of trying too hard ... many of the colour choices on the 453 were dreadful. I think the 453 looks better painted one colour (because the "tridion" body lines are incongruous). If that's what you wanted, your choices were black, white, silver. Meh.



I don't know if Renault is abandoning the combustion-engine versions along with smart. I tend to suspect not. In other words, going forward (in Europe), if you want an electric, you get the smart, and if you want a gas engine model, you get the Renault. Renault itself already has the all-electric Zoe and Twizy, so they don't need the Twingo to be electric.


smart itself, in North America, IMO is dead in the water. The smart ED is too compromised - and too expensive for what it is. And I think they are jumping the gun in going all-electric. It's still a tiny niche market. A niche corner of a niche market ends up being ... pretty small.



They were too expensive for what they are even before the decision to abandon combustion-engine models was made. I'm driving a Fiat 500 cabrio now, because the dealer had one in the showroom that I liked, and it was less than what the smart would be (by quite a bit), AND smart wouldn't build cabrio + manual transmission, whereas the Fiat cabrio + manual transmission that I'm driving now, was in the lot waiting for me to buy it. (It's red, by the way.)
 
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