When people think of smart vehicles, they usually have a small, urban car in mind. That changed radically in February 2023 at the latest, when the new generation of vehicles was launched in Germany. Sabine Metzger met with Wolfgang Ufer, CEO smart Germany, for an interview for the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language to talk about the new smart #1 and the transformation of the brand.
What makes the new smart #1 different from its predecessors?
Wolfgang Ufer: smart has always focused on the needs of drivers and passengers in its cars. We have remained true to this and have also deliberately emphasized two additional factors: Connectivity and truly modern, high-quality driving comfort.
This is demonstrated not only by the functions of the smart #1, which are tailored to the most modern requirements. The equipment and design are also aimed at this. We have already received the “iF Design Award” and the “Red Dot Award” for our innovative design concept. The car is tailored to individuality and intuitiveness, as demonstrated by our control units. Safety as well as driving assistance systems, for example ABS or comfort functions such as automatic climate control, can therefore be kept up to date very easily by vehicle owners via over-the-air updates. Or take the keyless-sharing function: We make flexibility in private car sharing possible for friends and family in a simple way. This gives owners a lot of freedom and liberty. For us, this is central to today’s mobility demands.
The premium character of the new smart is also underlined by the interior and exterior. Take the large panoramic roof, for example. This not only provides plenty of light and atmosphere in the vehicle, but also creates a great feeling of space. We tried to make maximum use of the space in the car – and we succeeded. We also opted for concealed electric door handles and a genuine leather interior. The different color combinations also give the car its own individual character.
How did the smart brand change in the first place?
Ufer: Breaking new ground and thinking differently about mobility has always been part of the smart DNA. In this case, too, we have deliberately evolved. We used to be perceived as a city two-seater, but that’s different now. We are an all-electric premium SUV that stands for lifestyle mobility and, with plenty of space, also enables longer trips with the family on vacation.
As the EU’s 2023 decision to phase out internal combustion engines by 2035 shows, we were even ahead of our time. After all, we were the first vehicle manufacturer to say goodbye to the combustion engine and turn completely to e-mobility – as early as 2020. Today, the smart brand stands for emission-free mobility and for the age of electromobility. We will thus contribute to and drive forward the mobility revolution. Today, as in the past, we offer our drivers a tailor-made product at the right time. People are specifically looking for electric vehicles, and the infrastructure is improving all the time. With our service partners ABB and DCS, we are also jointly driving forward the charging infrastructure at home, at work and on the road.
smart is increasingly relying on direct sales. How does that work?
Ufer: We’re not just focusing on direct sales, but on an omni-channel experience. Both online and in our partners’ dealerships, customers get a holistic impression of our car, and they can decide individually whether to carry out the individual steps of configuring and buying online or offline. Test drives are possible at any time and you can also switch from online to offline during the process. The main thing for us is that the customer is at the center and can flexibly shape the buying process. The car can be bought online in 15 minutes if desired, and the smart #1 can be delivered within a very short time. Our sales model makes this possible. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz dealerships with which we cooperate live up to the premium standards of our brand.
Is there anything about the car that particularly impresses you?
Ufer: As simple as it sounds, the smart #1 is simply a beautiful car. The design is modern and open. The interior is bright and friendly, and it’s fun to drive. As a family friend, space is also important to me. For example, I really like the fact that there is room for up to three Isofix child seats and that even as a family you have enough space to cover short and long distances comfortably in the smart #1. The car stands out far above urban functionality and mobility.
What I also like is that even with the smart #1 Pro+ we are offering buyers an affordable entry into eMobility. Our entry-level Line focuses on high-quality full equipment that comes directly with numerous benefits. Our Brabus line ensures top performance, combines elegance and sportiness, and the Premium has additional features.
The smart #1 has won several awards for its design, you mentioned. How do you see the relationship between functionality and design?
Wolfgang Ufer: Even though it is always a challenge for the automotive industry to combine both, we have successfully met this challenge. It helps that we have the Mercedes-Benz design team at our side. Together with them, our smart development team has done everything to ensure that the overall package of internal and external design as well as the vehicle’s performance is a perfect one. The design awards mentioned above confirm this.
We are proud to have developed a vehicle that allows a range of up to 440 km and provides plenty of space and comfort. The charging times are also very good. The car charges from 10 to 80 percent in 30 minutes.
You mentioned the term “lifestyle. What attitude to life does the new smart want to convey?
Wolfgang Ufer: The smart #1 is a vehicle that brings people together and stands for modern mobility. The digital key ensures that several people can easily drive the car, share it and thus increase flexibility enormously. As a fully electric car, the smart #1 contributes to climate protection and helps to enable climate-friendly mobility.
So you can see that people are at the center of our vehicle, and the design also expresses this. But of course it’s also an interplay with technology. The Beats sound system comes directly to mind, which has excellent sound. So you can listen to music or podcasts together or alone in the best sound quality. When driving, something like this gives me great pleasure personally. The new smart also has an avatar in the shape of a fox as an intelligent companion with AI-based voice control, which gives the car a bit of personality.
Thank you very much for the interview.