The Little Smart that Can't


[Image credit: itMoves]

My seventy eight years old father, with whom I still keep correspondence (the kind you write by hand, remember that?) sends me a couple of catalogues from a Daimler-Smart exhibition currently taking place a few blocks from the old neighborhood in Madrid.

Inside a tent, one can find the winners of the Smart Future Minds Award Madrid 2010, an exhibition that will display a selection of visionary projects that address the issues of future urban living and mobility (more info here).

Alongside the exhibition (mostly about architecture and urbanism), there are several Smart EVs for people to test drive which, according to my dad, are proving to be quite popular.

When he told me over the phone, my first and only question was Do they have the price?. No, he said. In other words, a dog-n-pony show.

What a surprise (insert sarcastic emoticon here).

Of all the vehicles on the market, I always thought the Smart ForTwo would be one of the first (if not The First) to be converted into electric power. Its small size, quirky personality and shameless urban character made it the perfect candidate. Add to it a country of origin where the Green Party actually has some power, and it looked like a done deal to me.

Alas, German manufacturers tend to drum at a different beat. I remember, back in the late 90s, a friend of mine working for VW Design North America telling me how they have been trying to explain headquarters for years (to no avail) that SUVs where the market to be in, if they wanted to sell in the USA. A few years later, Ford posted record earnings in great part on the back of Explorers and early Expeditions.

As much as I like projects like Car2Go (where Friend of itMoves Dave Brook has been an active participant on its development), their scope is just too limited (two cities only), and the ambition, well, lacking. Perhaps Smart is still limited (financially speaking) inside the corporation, since it hasn't been able to make a profit all these years. Perhaps they are waiting for the next generation ForTwo, so that the engineering work is worthy of their reputation (somehow conversions don't seem to fit with the idea of German engineering, don't you think?).

Or maybe they just missed the boat.

I hope they didn't. But in the Battle of the 2-Seaters, between the old, expensive Smart and the cheap-n-cheerful Twizy, I know which one I'd pick.