When Smart announced that it would sell only electric vehicles in the U.S. and Canada some wags wondered whether it was the beginning of a broader retreat for the brand. After all, this is not exactly the golden age of microcars.
At a time when gas is cheap and looks like it will stay cheap, can Smart really hope to grow?
On this delicate question, Smart CEO Annette Winkler paused for a moment.
"I have to focus," she says, "because I have 10 arguments in my mind for why we will grow."
"The most important," she continues, "is that I am pretty sure there is a downsizing trend in the industry, particularly for cars -- speaking globally. And just look at the number of people who want a big car, but say, 'let's have a second or third car.'
"Plus the number of cities with lack of space is still increasing, especially in China where there are 150 cities with 1 million people. If you see all this and then see where we are -- that is the answer."
Smart's strategy is to focus on these big, bustling metropolises. In the U.S., she says the brand is doing well in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and, more recently, in Miami.