Now and then, I take a little bit of interest in another USA niche car, the Smart … long ago we even toyed with the idea of buying one, but that idea went nowhere. I see a very few Smart cars around (maybe one a week) but they don’t seem very common – although I don’t live in a City center where perhaps they would be more common.
Anyway, I decided to hunt down Smart USA sales figures (with much help from Entrepreneur), and charted the figures against those for MINI. We all know that early-to-mid 2008 was high gas prices and strong sales of small cars, and we know that the collapsed economy has hit car sales – perhaps hitting sales of “less practical” cars like Smart and MINI a little harder than others. So, what do the figures show:
Clear is that Smart sales are always much lower than MINI sales – indeed they run at close to half of non-Clubman MINI sales; it’s hard to believe that there is a good business model selling half the number of a car that sells for 1/3 to 1/2 the cost.
More interesting is sales over the last half year, where the economy is still down but arguably not dropping further, and fuel prices are stable – we see MINI sales steady or climbing, while Smart sales are at a much lower level, and falling.
Any bets on whether Smart is a viable business in a couple of years? Especially as competition increases in the small car market with cars from Fiat, Nissan, Kia, Toyota (and others?) coming, or here …