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Boardroom Brainstorming: Some Car Makers Running on Fumes for Great Ideas

Boardroom Brainstorming: Some Car Makers Running on Fumes for Great Ideas

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017 06:15 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Picture this: A boardroom at Mercedes-Benz. Around the table, the various execs are tossing this question around: How do we take our most terrible car — the Smart — and make it worse for its already paltry American market?

The bad ideas abound:

  • “Remove the passenger seat,” Tim from accounting says.
  • “Maybe,” Marla from design says, “we switch to an eco-friendly porcupine pleather seat.”
  • “AM radio only,” Tom, a VP, says with certainty.
  • Mark from engineering wants to make the Smart an even 5-feet wide.
  • Robert from R&D offers making the Fortwo front-wheel drive.

The chairman is not pleased. “No, you’re aren’t being revolutionary enough,” he says.

“That’s it. I’ve got it. Let’s get rid of the gasoline engine.” Applause. Murmurs of approval.

That was totally fictional but this is not: Yes, Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and owner of Smart is killing the gasoline engine in its cars. Why?

I have no idea. This isn’t like when Sergio Marchionne announced that he was killing the Chrysler 200 and focusing on Ram trucks.

Daimler says it made its decision based on “developments within the microcar segment [that] present some challenges for the current Smart product portfolio. Therefore, with the launch of the fourth-generation Smart Fortwo electric drive this summer, the Smart lineup will consist exclusively of the zero emissions Smart electric-drive coupe and cabrio in the U.S. and Canada.”

Translation: Since we can’t sell cars in the U.S. well — Smart sold 6,211 models nationwide last year — we are going to make them even less appealing to the American consumer.

At least, that’s how I hear it.

For being so small, the Fortwo is amazingly fuel inefficient compared to nearly any small car. Sure, the entry price is under $15,000, but you aren’t getting much for that money, so what’s the point? And now there won’t even a gasoline option to give someone, who for whatever reason thought that a Smart would be a good investment, a few extra horsepower.

The Smart Fortwo gets 89hp and the electric gets 74. And the current electric model has a 68-mile range (combined). There are people who can run longer distances in competition than the Smart can drive. Also, the price on the current EV model is $25,000—$10,000 more than the combustion model.

Maybe I am wrong. Or maybe, this is all about CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy).

That’s it, right? Mercedes-Benz is using Smart’s EVs to help with their CAFE average so that it can make more Mercedes? I don’t know.

Lauren Fix, The Car Coach® is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. Post your comments on Twitter: @LaurenFix or on her Facebook Page. 

 

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Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and owner of Smart is killing the gasoline engine in its cars.
car, auto, boardroom, ideas
448
2017-15-22
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 06:15 AM
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