NEW YORK -- Smart USA will offer customers who buy or lease its new electric-powered ForTwo the option of renting the car's lithium ion battery for a monthly fee.
Smart wants to "minimize the anxiety" that the battery would give out before the car, said Tracey Matura, head of Smart USA.
The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive goes on sale in the United States next month.
It debuted last autumn in Europe, where about 97 percent of buyers and lessees have chosen to rent the battery, Matura said.
"We thought, why not offer the same in the U.S.?" she said.
Smart has not set a monthly U.S. battery rental price. In Europe, it is 65 euros, or about $83, for as long as 10 years.
When the battery is rented, the purchase price of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive drops to the equivalent of $23,680 compared with $30,398 when the battery is included.
Smart USA has set a base price of $25,750 for the car, including shipping. The battery is covered under Smart's four-year/50,000-mile warranty, but once the warranty expires, owners and lessees must pay for battery maintenance and/or replacement. The rental price covers the battery after the warranty expires.
"If your battery goes below 80 percent efficiency, they will replace it," Matura said.
In 2013, Smart USA expects to sell or lease about 2,000 of the electric cars. Supplies are constrained because of high demand in Europe, the company said.
After starting production in June 2012, Smart made more than 1,000 ForTwo Electric Drives last year. The company plans to increase 2013 global production of the car at its plant in Hambach, France, to 6,000 vehicles, a Stuttgart-based Smart spokeswoman said in an e-mail reply to questions. Smart also aims to boost global sales of the ForTwo Electric Drive to a five-digit figure by 2014 at the latest, the spokeswoman added.
Douglas A. Bolduc contributed to this story