From its inception, Smart has focused on being an urban transportation solution, with very small cars such as the ForTwo and ForFour that can dart around tight city streets and park in tiny spaces. But after becoming a 50-50 joint venture of Geely and Mercedes-Benz, Smart Automobiles is preparing to relaunch as an electric-only brand with larger vehicles, including the new #1 (pronounced hashtag 1) -- but still wants to satisfy existing customers. Smart Europe CEO Dirk Adelmann spoke with Automotive News Europe Associate Publisher and Editor Luca Ciferri and News Editor Peter Sigal about how the once-niche brand plans to expand its customer base.
The #1, at approximately 4.3 meters long, will be the largest Smart ever. Will your buyers be conquests, or current Smart customers?
That was very speculative until recently, but now we have data from our launch edition, which is 1,000 units. We were assuming much more than 50 percent would be conquests, because this is a much bigger vehicle than the ForTwo or ForFour. But we were surprised to find that in our major markets, 80 to 85 percent of sales could be to our current customers. We can be a primary car for families, which we have not been with the ForTwo or ForFour. So, it's a different target audience. It’s also much younger than our current customers. But the conquest rate is not as high as we would have expected, and what we planned for, which is good news.
What is the age of the average Smart owner and what is the age of the customers for the #1?
With the #1, we are targeting Generation X (born in 1965-80), Generation Y (born in 1981-1996) and young families. ForTwo customers are all ages, from students to grandparents, but the average age is definitely higher than what we see for the #1.