"The one-third remaining did about 80 percent of the sales," Winkler told Automotive News.
In June, 58 of Smart's 85 U.S. outlets told Mercedes-Benz USA, which distributes the brand in the U.S., that they would stop selling the Smart ForTwo after the switch to an EV-only lineup this year. Mercedes announced the change in February.
The remaining dealerships are in markets such as San Francisco and Portland, Ore., which are more conducive to sales of a tiny electric car, Winkler said. But as electric cars catch on with consumers, Smart is leaving the door open for the other dealerships to return, Winkler said.
The North American decision was a precursor to Smart's announcement last week at the Frankfurt auto show that it will move to an EV-only strategy globally. Cars with internal combustion engines will be phased out in Europe no later than 2020, Winkler said. There will be a few other global markets such as China and Japan that will hang on to combustion vehicles longer, she said. Winkler didn't provide a timetable for sales to end elsewhere.
Even as Smart loses sales of those combustion-engine vehicles, Winkler is counting on electric vehicles to compensate.
"I'm honestly not sure we will lose a lot," she said.
The brand will continue to focus on sales to urban car-sharing fleets as one avenue of growth. A concept unveiled in Frankfurt, the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo, is an autonomous, electric vehicle that — in a first for parent Daimler AG — dispenses with a steering wheel and pedals. Intended to be used for car sharing, it can be summoned using a mobile device.