Auto blogThu, 29 Nov 2012
If you were to gaze upon the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive and ponder what you might add to sort of, you know, set it off a bit, you probably wouldn't consider adding a pair of wings. That's because you are not Jeremy Scott. He, on the other hand, would do exactly that. And has.
That's right, that winged wonder you see pictured above is not some sort of Redbull-induced hallucination. Rather, it is the result of a creative collaboration between Mercedes-Benz Cars Advanced Design Studios and the aforementioned famed fashion designer called, appropriately enough, the Smart ForJeremy. And, it has just made its debut at the LA Auto Show.
Besides the faux-feather flourishes that light up when the brakes are applied, the outward appearance of this 2013 limited special edition is tarted up with a custom set of propeller-inspired wheels with just enough shiny to balance the chromed finish of its tridion shell, mirrors and, um, "eyebrows."
Little Daimler Child Finally Nails It With Electrons
Since the official launch of the Smart Fortwo in October 1998, the little company within Daimler has never made a profit. Far from it. Not for lack of trying, certainly. Many of us know well the story of myriad attempts to force the world to adopt the Smart way of living in the automotive sense, only to have the various chapters conclude in a disillusioning crash and financial burn.
Smart is still trying desperately to find its proper path as a global player that sells rather well - and not just in London and a few Italian and German cities. They insist that China is the great frontier nowadays for the Fortwo in all of its trims, and they still want to figure out North America.
Drama, suspense, romance, horror - just about everything you might want from a great big-budget flick has been packed into this minute-long masterpiece from Smart (or its ad agency, anyway).
Smart has been pushing its 2013 ForTwo fairly aggressively over recent weeks, debuting new series of commercials aimed at changing minds about the diminutive two-seater. This spot for the upcoming ForTwo Electric Drive is no different, but it may just be the best of the bunch.
Watch all the way through - it's worth it.
We're getting our first drive in the 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive today, and Smart just announced pricing for the latest version of its all-electric minicar. The starting price for the ForTwo ED Coupe will be $25,000 (*plus delivery fees), making it the lowest price electric vehicle in the U.S. from a mainstream automaker - and that doesn't even include the available $7,500 federal tax credit.
With the tax credit figured in, the starting price works out to $17,500. Add in the required $825 destination charge and up to $2,200 for a home charger, and the 2013 ForTwo ED Coupe will essentially start at just $20,525 - $1,100 cheaper than the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Of course, customers who already have home charging stations can save even more. Smart has said that it will offer two different home chargers that range in price from $1,300 to $1,700, and it is estimating installation will cost somewhere in the $300 to $500 range.
While we do know the starting prices for the new ForTwo ED, options and lease prices have not been announced. For comparison, the previous-generation ForTwo ED had a lease price of $599 a month.
In the U.S., we've come to know the Smart brand just for its ForTwo, but other markets have seen a wider variety of models from the Daimler brand including the Smart ForFour that was produced from 2004 through 2006. This bigger vehicle from Smart added two extra doors and a rear seat for some passenger space. While we've already seen spy photos for the next ForTwo, judging by these spy shots of a stretched-wheelbase test mule, Smart is hard at work developing a next-generation ForFour as well.
Although the previous ForFour was a result of a collaboration between Daimler and Mitsubishi, the new model is going to be a venture between Daimler and Nissan/Renault. Under the Penske ownership, it was announced that the new Smart B-segment car would be based on the Nissan Micra (which was later scrapped), but we hear that this car will actually ride on a new platform that will eventually be the basis for the next Renault Twingo. Like the current and upcoming ForTwo, the 2015 ForFour will be a rear-engine/rear-wheel-drive car.
While we don't have any information as to what will power the new Smart ForFour, we can almost guarantee that it (along with the new ForTwo) will have a styling that will be very similar to recent Smart concept cars like the ForStars, For-Us and ForVision. The new ForTwo is expected to go on sale in 2014 with the bigger ForFour hitting dealers a year later.
Smart tells us that its new Forstars Concept is a Sports Utility Coupé. We're pretty sure that's a misnomer. After all, the electric powertrain, while supremely efficient, isn't a powerhouse. Plus, with room for just two occupants and a golf bag plus toiletries, utility doesn't really seem to be its forte either.
So, what is the Smart Forstars good for? Well, judging from our image gallery, it makes an excellent prop for impossibly cute auto show models to lean against. Plus, it's got a completely clear roof, which is how it got its name - you can stare at the stars... get it? Oh, and it also sports an integrated projector on its hood for impromptu drive-in movie nights.
Power comes from a 60-kW electric motor and 17.6-kWh lithium ion battery pack, and Smart claims a top speed of 80 miles per hour.
Bloomberg has reported that Daimler is looking at the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive to recharge the division's relevance and brand perception, and part of how the ForTwo ED will do that is by being the first mass-produced and the least expensive German electric car on the market. Some context: Bloomberg says the brand seeks 10,000 annual sales for its electron-powered runabout, which is just 10 percent of Smart global sales. More important than how many ForTwo EDs are sold, however, would be the fact that by beating the BMW i3 and electric Volkswagen e-Up! to market, it would "re-establish the brand's position as an urban mobility pioneer with the first mass-produced electric auto from a German manufacturer."
At least, that's the plan - one that we're inclined to file under "Things That Make You Go Hmmm...." We enjoyed our time in the ForTwo ED; the electric drivetrain was a perfect fit and remedied what is perhaps the principal gripe with the current car (in the U.S., at least) - its less-than-smooth transmission. Nevertheless, even though people open to electric cars and the premiums that electric and range-extended vehicles command, we have a feeling that Smart's pricing will continue to make it tough for the little guy to compete.
A conventional Smart starts at €10,275 ($13,489 U.S.) in Germany, and a conventional VW Up! is €9,850 ($12,931 U.S.). The ForTwo ED has been priced at €18,910 ($24,824 U.S.) plus €65 ($85.33 U.S.) per month for the battery - and we'd be surprised if VW didn't make sure the larger, plusher e-Up! was right there with it. The Renault Zoe - not German, we know - will be slightly more expensive at €20,600 (around $27k), plus a monthly fee for the battery, but the Zoe is a four-door hatchback the size of a Clio. Pricing for this landmass hasn't been announced, but the electric competition generally hits the mid-$30K mark: the four-door, four-seat Mitsubishi i-MiEV sets the low end at $29,625, the Nissan Leaf at $35,200, the BMW i3 is rumored to come in around $35,000, the Fiat 500E is predicted to be right there, too, and that's supposedly after Fiat swallows a hefty loss on each car. Chevrolet sets the high bar with the range-extended Volt at $39,145.
Based on its last few concept cars, we can definitely see the styling direction that Daimler's Smart brand is taking. The new Smart ForStars concept, which will debut at the 2012 Paris Motor Show later this month, certainly builds on the themes we've seen, as well. While the Smart ForVision concept was a solid indication of the next-generation ForTwo, the ForStars looks like it could be previewing a new Smart model attempting to target buyers of small crossovers.
Smart calls the ForStars concept a "Sports Utility Coupe," and the car's increased ground clearance and cargo space could resonate with buyers looking for a small car this not quite as small as the ForTwo. The overall styling of the ForStars is familiar, with reference from concepts like the ForVision and For-Us. Between the smiley lower fascia with the chubby, dimpled cheeks and the "eyebrows" above the headlights, the new Smart reminds us a bit of an evil version of Speed Buggy. Or a much cooler take on the long-dead Suzuki X-90.
The concept's bubbled roof gives it a look somewhat reminiscent of the Mini Cooper Coupe. Said roof is made from transparent glass panels, giving both occupants a panoramic upward view (it also helps explain the show car's stellar name). The concept car is painted up in a striking Alubeam Rouge exterior color with the matte gray portions of the ForStars showing off the signature Tridion safety cell.
For such a Lilliputian car, the Smart ForTwo has giant staying power. The hatch that still gets wary glances is not only still kicking here in the U.S., it's done ten-straight months of year-on-year sales increases. That kind of sales trend calls for an ad campaign, and we have it in three new 15-second - bite-sized in Smart-speak - commercials.
Two of them, "Tough" and "Joy Ride" have begun running now, the third, "Custom Made," will start airing later this month. They'll be rolled out absolutely everywhere a commercial can be shown, and they'll be joined by banner ads and Facebook activity. We could tell you what the new Smart ads are about, but remember, they're only bite-sized, and you'll find all three just below.
From the looks of these spy shots, Daimler is hard at work on the 2014 Smart ForTwo, giving us our first look next generation of this micro car. With the partnership between Renault and Daimler finally coming to fruition, the Smart will likely share a platform with the Renault Twingo, and it will come in gasoline, diesel and electric variants.
In terms of styling, the test mule doesn't reveal much, but expect the new ForTwo to utilize some of the design cues introduced on recent concept vehicles like the 2011 ForVision Concept and the 2012 For-Us Concept. One thing we can see with this prototype is that the car appears to have gotten a little bigger with boxier proportions closer to the Scion iQ. Thanks to a bolted-on scoop on the rear part of the car's roof, we can tell that the 2014 ForTwo will continue to have its engine mounted in the rear.
For a release date, the production version of the new ForTwo appears to be heading to the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, but we wouldn't be surprised to see another ForTwo-teasing Smart concept later this year.