It has been revealed that Daimler is set to halt the sale of petrol-powered Smart cars in America, Canada, and Norway later this year. Similarly, the company intends to prioritise the production of EV components at its major Untertürkheim factory despite serious opposition from local workers’ unions.
A German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, gained access to a letter from Mercedes-Benz CEO, Dietmar Exler, to North American and Canadian dealerships in which it was announced that all sales of gasoline powered Smart cars would halt by September this year. After this point, when the new model year will begin, suppliers will only provide the EV mod
els, the ForTwo, the ForTwo Cabriolet (Cabrio in the UK), and the ForFour, for sale. Non-electric Smart car owners will still be able to purchase parts and services for the next ten years. Norway is also set to be affected but there are no changes planned for other countries.
There is some debate about the reasoning for this latest decision by Daimler, other than the company sticking to its rebellious nature. Some have suggested that it simply coincides with the recent release of the electric line-up. Others seem to regard it as an aggressive plan to boost sales in a notoriously tricky market. According to the letter, it seems that the reality is somewhere in the middle; Exler writes that: “The electric drive is of central importance for our long-term drive strategy in North America, and the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive will play an important role. In addition, the market development in the small car segment presents us with some challenges”.
Typically, US consumers choose large vehicles like SUVs and trucks. The demand for micro-cars has always been limited because they are considered expensive and inappropriate for long distance driving. However, it is hoped that those looking for cars suitable for city driving will be inspired to choose an EV over an ICE. In time, and with developments in batteries, it may be possible to upgrade batteries in the Smart EVs in order to extend range and power.
Currently, a Smart EV has a powertrain consisting of a 17.6 kWh battery and a 60 kW three-phase motor which offers a top speed of around 130 kph (81 mph) and a range of approximately 100 miles.
In other news, Daimler has also further decided to convert part of a plant, near Stuttgart, into an e-technology centre that will produce EV parts, develop and test powertrain prototypes, and act as a fully operational assembly line. Untertürkheim is responsible for everything from complete engines and transmissions to axles, so any such change will be a large undertaking.
It has also been heavily criticised by labour forces in the areas. Because EV parts are simpler to make and require less supervision, a large number of the current 19,000 staff are expected to be dismissed and work will become more automated.
Evidently, Mercedes-Benz foresees the plant becoming redundant if it continues to prioritise ICE components over those for EVs. Consider the company’s decision to heavily invest, to take charge of market supplies, to really drive sales of its current electric vehicles, and that the Generation EQ brand’s production to be imminent. Giving that, it is easy to understand that Mercedes wishes to put itself in the strongest position it can in order to be a serious competitor against Volkswagen the Tesla Goliath.