As with any amazing price, though, the new $139-a-month offer – down from $199 – has some asterisk-y qualifications. For starters, the the 36-month lease requires $1,999 down but at least it offers a surprising 15,000 miles a year. Second, the Fortwo ED is only available in eight states, the "CARB states" where Smart has dealerships. That means California, Oregon, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts. Vermont and Maine also fall into the CARB category, but there are no Smart dealers there.
Third, and most important, the lease includes Smart's new "battery assurance plus" (BAP) battery lease program. This is the first time a major automaker has offered a battery lease program in the US, but Smart (and Nissan, and others) offer it in Europe. BAP provides free annual battery maintenance and guarantees that if the energy capacity drops below 80 percent, Smart will replace the pack. BAP is transferable and functions no matter what the mileage is on the car.
BAP is an $80-a-month option if you buy the car, but it is is rolled into the $139 lease price, meaning that somehow Daimler is calculating that the rest of the lease costs you just $59 a month. Mark Webster, general manager of Smart USA, said at an event in Ann Arbor yesterday that the low price is possible because, "We are passing the [$7,500] federal tax credit along as a very attractive lease." Smart made the price changes August 1 but didn't put out an official announcement about it because there was no change to the Fortwo's MSRP (which remains $25,000). Instead, Smart USA is offering its dealers $2,000 in "marketing assistance" to lower the cost, and Webster said they will "probably pass it along to the customer." We're skeptical.
Smart USA is offering dealers $2,000 in "marketing assistance" that they will "probably" pass along to the customer.
Fortwo ED buyers can also get the 10-year battery assurance plus program (it's actually a battery rental option). In fact, Webster said that Smart USA "does not recommend" buying the battery outright. He said if you do, you are putting yourself at risk and that's why, from both a resale and customer satisfaction standpoint, "we want to rent you the battery," he said. Of course, if you sign up for BAP, then you need to pay $80 a month for a decade. Or, to add it all up, $9,600.
To make up for that additional burden, Smart USA is also offering incentives to Smart ED purchasers who opt for the battery lease (we know, we got confused learning all these details, too). Specifically, on top of any potential federal or state tax deals, Smart will give buyers $5,010 off the price of your new electric smart. Throw in the aforementioned $2,000 dealer incentive (if you can get it) and the $7,500 federal tax credit and you might be able to buy a new Smart ED for an eye-popping $10,490. Plus the $80-a-month battery rental fee, of course. Webster said that, so far, sales and leases each make up roughly half of the Smart EDs the company has sold in the US (with almost of all of them choosing to lease the battery). New sales tactics are needed. Last month, that number was 58 and Webster told AutoblogGreen "we have plenty" of vehicles ready to find a home.