2014 Smart ForTwo Electric DriveEnlarge Photo
The very small Smart cars have apparently lost a very large amount of money for Mercedes-Benz.
A new report from London's Bernstein Research names the Smart the biggest European money-loser of all time, according to the Detroit News.
Smart has reportedly lost a total of $4.6 billion over its lifetime, or about $6,100 per car.
“We’re not convinced the current one makes money either, even with all its fixed costs written off,” Bernstein analyst Max Warburton said in the report.
The list of the top 10 European money-losing cars puts Smart ahead of the Fiat Stilo (which lost a mere $2.9 billion) and the Volkswagen Phaeton ($2.7 billion) to earn the top spot.
Conceived by the Swatch Swiss watch company, Mercedes bought into Smart thinking it could build sales with a cheaper, entry-level product,
However, the cars were more expensive to develop and build than anticipated, and haven't achieve the sales numbers Mercedes had originally predicted.
The cars have been hampered by a crude semi-automatic transmission, and no Smart has ever been able to match the practicality and fun-to-drive factor of slightly-larger minicars like rival BMW's MINI Cooper.
2013 Smart ForTwo Electric DriveEnlarge Photo
In the United States, the Smart ForTwo minicar has been an underwhelming performer.
Smart sold 24,662 ForTwos here in 2008--exceeding its annual goal of 16,000--in a year where gas soared to $4 a gallon or more.
Last year, Smart sold just 10,009 cars in the U.S., after totals of 5,348 in 2011, 5,927 in 2010, and 14,600 in 2009.
And the equally tiny Scion iQ hasn't fared well either, suggesting that American just don't want tiny two-seat cars.
Mercedes is hoping for better luck with the entirely redesigned 2015 Smart ForTwo.
That next-generation Smart is expected to share a platform with the Renault Twingo sold in Europe, which should provide for better economies of scale--and, we hope, lower losses or none at all.
The plug-in Electric Drive model will likely return alongside the gasoline version.