On the heels of a successful first year in the United States, Smart’s not resting on it’s laurels. We just spoke with Smart USA president Dave Schembri, who indicated Smart’s future is quite electric.
The smart fortwo Electric Drive – first shown as a technology demonstrator at the 2008 Paris motor show – will be offered to U.S. consumers in the second half of 2010. We’ve yet to hear firm specifications of the production vehicle, but it will use lithium-ion batteries, likely produced by a new joint-venture between Daimler AG and Evonik Industries.
Initial volume of the ForTwo ED will be limited, but Schembri revealed to us that volume production of the electric microcar will begin in 2012. It’s still unknown if the cars will be sold outright to consumers, or leased to customers on a short-term basis (as with the Mini E).
Apart from this year’s U.S. introduction of the ForTwo Brabus, the ForTwo ED will likely be the biggest change to Smart’s lineup in the next few years. Though Schembri says owners of the 24,622 Smarts in the U.S. don’t hesitate to suggest improvements, they’re mostly related to minor accessories – cruise control, for instance, is in the works for the first time, as are aftermarket accessories including an armrest and cargo cover. Another suggestion was the new Smart Express program, where customers on a waiting list are notified if a previously-reserved Smart matching their specifications becomes available.
Schembri hopes these minor refinements, along with the ForTwo’s relative low-cost of ownership and fuel efficicency, propel 2009 sales to levels seen in 2008.