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Mercedes Smart Car Disappears

Mercedes-Benz USA sold 31,250 cars and light trucks in August, up 3.2% year over year. Sales of its tiny Smart car were only 617 units, down 53.7% from August last year. The car seems to be going away.

Smart sales numbers for the first eight months of the year were not much better. They fell 36.1% to 4,650, another sign the brand has been orphaned. The Smart brand has a number of disadvantages that will make rebuilding its sales almost impossible.

Smart is in a competitive part of the market that includes Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE: TM) Scion and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.’s (NYSE: FCAU) Fiat 500. Scion sales fell 34% in August to 3,895. Fiat sales moved higher by 1% to 3,388. The super-small category’s fortunes continue to fail.

Smart offers several models, which is clearly not enough. The car comes in gas-powered and electric models. It has made the car larger and promotes the Mercedes tradition for safety. Prices run from $14,000 to nearly $20,000

Smart, however, is not different enough from other small cars sold by almost all car companies. Toyota’s own Yaris has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $15,000 for its base model. And Toyota has set incentives to clear 2015 models off its lots — 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for 60 months.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) offers its tiny Fiesta, which has a base price of $14,000. Honda Motor Co. Ltd.’s (NYSE HMC) Fit sells for $16,000.

Why, buyers must ask, buy a brand that is barely known when all large car companies have established models that are very similar. Smart markets itself as a “city only” car. But its more well-known rivals likely maneuver around cities just as well.

Mercedes cannot sell Smart because there is nothing special about it.

ALSO READ: America’s Best and Worst Car Brands

By Douglas A. McIntyre