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The world's smallest car, the Smart ForTwo, will soon be withdrawn from sale locally because Australians aren't prepared to pay a premium for a city runabout.
Priced from $18,990 drive-away the Smart car costs almost as much as a Toyota Corolla but is half the size and only has two seats.
In Europe, where parking space is a premium, the Smart car has been a sales success because it is viewed as a "four-wheeled scooter" for its ability to squeeze into the tightest of spots.
Australian sales have been in freefall since a peak in 2005
Originally a joint venture between watch maker Swatch and the inventor of the automobile Mercedes-Benz, the Smart is only marginally longer than most cars are wide and can park perpendicular to the footpath.
But Australian sales have been in freefall since a peak in 2005; demand became so weak that vehicle orders moved to online only in June 2013.
Just 22 Smart cars have been sold so far this year in a market that is showing signs of recovery.
Buyers have shunned the pint-sized parking solution
Even though Australia's cities and inner suburbs are becoming more congested, buyers have shunned the pint-sized parking solution.
"We worked really hard to keep the Smart car but not enough Australians are buying it in the numbers we need to make it viable," said Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy. "It's regrettable, but it's the way it is."
More than 4400 Smart cars have been sold in Australia in the 12 years since 2003, including 296 Smart Roadsters from 2003 to 2006 and 585 ForFour four-door hatchbacks from 2004 to 2007.
To date, 3517 of the more widely recognised Smart ForTwo cars have been sold in Australia over two model generations.
Mercedes-Benz says it will continue to offer service and parts for the Smart cars that have been sold in Australia and that it has a couple of months worth of unsold stock remaining.
Mr McCarthy said: “Mercedes-Benz dealers … will continue to provide service and support to the Smart range.”
Leaving the door open for its possible return at a later date he added: “Mercedes-Benz Australia will continue to monitor potential Smart brand opportunities in the market.”
Ironically, the news of Smart's demise in Australia comes after the company released an all-new model in Europe that addresses the criticisms of the current car, and would likely find broader appeal thanks to its roomier cabin and more car-like driving dynamics. Now it won't make the boat to Australia.
Mercedes-Benz says a high proportion of Smart ForTwo buyers in Australia also own one of its $200,000 S-Class limousine flagships
The original Smart model was known for its use as a novelty car towing advertising billboards, featured in the DaVinci Code movie as a getaway vehicle, and Mercedes-Benz even commissioned US fashion designer Jeremy Scott to create his dream Smart car, on which he fitted giant wings.
The Smart car also attracted wealthy buyers. Mercedes-Benz says a high proportion of Smart ForTwo buyers in Australia also own one of its $200,000 S-Class limousine flagships and use the Smart as a second car.
The shutdown of the Smart brand locally is another sign of how cut-throat the Australian new-car market has become.
Last year the Opel brand from Germany was axed after just 11 months, while in 2009 the iconic Cadillac brand from the US aborted its launch in Australia at the 11th hour, after dealers had been appointed and cars had been imported.
There are more than 60 automotive brands competing for 1.1 million annual sales in Australia – compared to 38 marques in the USA and 46 in western Europe, both of which sell more than 15 times as many cars as Australia.