News - Smart
Smart could return if price is right
Tiny Tot: The Smart ForTwo was sold in Australia from 2003 to 2014.
Door remains open for Smart in Oz but a bunch of circumstances must be right first
22 January 2016
MERCEDES-BENZ is keen to resurrect the Smart brand in Australia, but only if
the ex-factory price is considerably less than before and there is scope for
profit in the business case.
While no discussions are currently underway, it’s been revealed that the door
is open for models such as the latest-generation ForFour to eventually find
their way to Australia.
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the facelifted A-Class hatch, Mercedes-Benz
Australia senior communications and public relations manager, David McCarthy,
admitted that there is a strong desire in some quarters of the upper-management
team to see both the latest ForTwo (two-seater) and ForFour (four-seater) in
However, prices must start well under the $18,000 and $20,000 mark for each
respectively in order for them to have any chance of being competitive – an
unlikely scenario right now with the weak Australian currency.
“If we can bring it in at a price that we can sell, and still be able to make a
profit – albeit a small one – we would consider it,” Mr McCarthy said. “Those
circumstances currently do not exist, but who knows what Smart might produce in
two or three years time.”
Mercedes-Benz Australia even considered paring the profit back to almost
nothing in order to keep the brand alive in this country, but gave up when it
became clear that its price objective could not be met with the
When the last ForTwo was discontinued in December 2014, it retailed for $17,710
before on-road costs for the A451 Coupe and $19,690 for the C451 Cabriolet.
“I think the ForFour would have done really well, but we couldn’t have landed
it here for under $20,000,” Mr McCarthy said. “And the problem with the ForTwo
is that you can buy a new car in Australia from $3000 a seat, while we were
trying to sell something that cost $9000 a seat. We couldn’t make the business
case work properly.
“We were almost prepared to sell the car at no margin for us, to keep it there.
(Mercedes-Benz Australia chief executive officer) Horst von Sanden and I love
the product. We understand that not everybody shares that view, but it is a car
people bought and not one we sold; people knew about it and wanted it… but the
price we were being offered from the factory (killed it). But that’s not to
rule it out in the future.”
It is believed that at least 500 sales of each model annually would be the bare
minimum required to make the brand fly again in Australia, though Mr McCarthy
believes that, positioned and priced properly, there is enough appeal in the
vehicles to see that figure double per body style.
“There’s a lot of affection for the brand,” he said. “So if the situation
changes – and it’s not likely in the current environment – and a whole lot of
circumstances were different, we would reconsider it. Never say never, but it’s
not an active consideration.”
Smart sold just 76 of the leftover ForTwos last year, 108 in 2014, 126 in 2013,
and 142 the year before that. In 2009 382 were registered, while in 2005 (the
best year, and boosted by the presence of the original ForFour – a short-lived
B-segment supermini venture with Mitsubishi based on the contemporary Colt –
and Roadster convertible) some 799 found homes.
The latest Smart ForTwo (W453) and ForFour (W454) are a co-development with
Renault, with the latter forming the basis for the third-generation Twingo
sub-B city car. All are rear-engine and rear-wheel drive, with two engines on
offer – a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine or a 0.9-litre
turbo triple. Both are mated to a conventional five-speed manual gearbox.
Suspension is by struts up front and a De Dion tube out back.
Smart entered Australia in 2003 with the original 450-series ForTwo when it was
known as the City Coupe.