Wolfgang Ufer: Head of Smart Germany: “Of course cheaper electric cars are our goal – but not now”

Mr.

Wolfgang Ufer: Head of Smart Germany: “Of course cheaper electric cars are our goal – but not now”

Mr. Ufer, in my short time with the Smart

Let's stick with the two-seater - there's a reason why Smart has it

But the Fortwo already existed as an electric car. Why is the new edition so difficult? If we bring a two-seater today, it will certainly be on a different platform and with completely different performance data. A new Fortwo – or

Wolfgang Ufer has been Smart Deutschland CEO for over three years. The brand has been a joint venture between Daimler and the Chinese car manufacturer Geely since 2019. The results of this collaboration could be seen for the first time at

Good keyword. Electric cars are quite expensive compared to combustion engines, even the small models. We paid around 25,000 euros for our Polo GTI - I can't get a comparable car with electric drive for that money. How do you want to communicate this increase in costs to customers? Fortunately, there are enough customers who perceive and purchase our vehicles as a fair overall package under our conditions. But of course there are enough people who want and need a cheaper vehicle. We're already meeting them somewhat with our basic models, such as the Smart

Is it becoming apparent that there will be a noticeable drop in the price of electric cars in the medium term? This is not to be expected for the existing Smart vehicle models. Due to the abolition of the state premium, there are currently quite a few discounts from manufacturers, but I don't expect a general reduction in price levels. We will not lower the list price of our models, but if we do, the features will also adapt to the price, as is the case with the Pro-Line.

How is the lack of environmental bonus noticeable? Everyone was very surprised by it. I think the industry reacted very well and almost everyone passed the discounts on to customers out of their own pockets. We at Smart reacted immediately and took over the bonus for our customers, thereby absorbing it straight away. You really couldn't leave it like that. But the lasting negative effect has little to do with money.

But?The uncertainty among customers is enormous. It was so unplanned and so hasty that there was enormous reluctance from customers, especially in January. This is only starting to pick up a little now, because people are realizing that the manufacturers aren't leaving them out in the cold. At least in the compact class, business is picking up again. However, I cannot estimate how badly this has affected upper-class providers.

What do you think is the best way if I want to drive an electric car today – subscription, leasing or purchasing? Especially in view of the foreseeable technological progress in the coming years, many people are likely to think carefully about how and for how long they commit to a vehicle. We actually still have a lot of customers who buy their vehicles directly. This usually affects the higher equipment lines. In total, that’s up to 30 percent. The majority conclude leasing contracts for two to four years. Subscriptions are becoming increasingly interesting, but are of course not the right model for most people due to the higher costs and short terms.

The disadvantages of electric cars are obvious: for some, the range is too short, but most people are likely to be bothered by the strong fluctuations in performance depending on the weather. At the same time, it is foreseeable that there will be corresponding innovations because they have to be there. What does this do to the value of today's vehicles? I think that we will continue to see developments in electromobility that effectively improve individual aspects. Certainly also with the batteries. The combustion engine has 140 years of continuous development behind it - it would be extraordinary if this didn't continue with electric cars. But I think we are already at a very good point in terms of performance and range. The entire field of software is more interesting, because it opens up completely new possibilities for current vehicles that were unthinkable until just a few years ago. The basic technology, i.e. the basis, will of course become obsolete at some point. But that's always been the case - and it doesn't stop classic cars from still driving well today.

Let's stay with the software: Where are the hard limits - and what can a manufacturer adjust long after delivery? We can update and adapt around 75 percent of the vehicle functions over the air, i.e. without visiting a workshop. This ensures a modern vehicle in the long term. For example, a change in performance can be made and other functions can be unlocked, updated or improved.

Also the range? Of course. It is also possible to change the performance by making adjustments to the vehicle. It's hard to imagine the possibilities, but you have to proceed carefully. A more recent example shows the beautiful sides of this technology: In winter, we gave Smart customers the steering wheel heating as a gift. Via update.

Topic: Range: At the end of the day, what makes more sense, fast charging or maximum range without a charging stop? The more range, the more weight. As soon as you offer a range of around 400 kilometers, that is a good value for the compact class. Then it's more about optimizing the battery and increasing the charging performance. Most of the time you use the car on shorter journeys and can charge it while shopping, for example. However, if you're going on vacation, fast charging is important.

So why doesn't the Smart offer an 800-volt system and charging capacities of over 150 kilowatts? We think half an hour for ten to 80 percent is very good. Anything else would have made the cars too expensive. An 800-volt system with a corresponding charging window is currently very expensive. But I'm not saying we don't have it on the agenda.

Why do you choose a partner like Brabus when you sell vehicles that travel at a maximum of 185 km/h and are whisper quiet? We have had a partnership with Brabus for more than 20 years - of course our partner is also going through a change. Different rules apply to electric cars than to combustion engines; customers value different things. We capture the performance through incredible acceleration. We don't need a high top speed - firstly, it costs a disproportionate amount of electricity, and secondly, you can hardly drive more than 180 km/h over a longer distance anyway. But I don't want to hide the fact that we are working with Brabus on concepts that, like before, push the physical limits and really exaggerate them.

Do you also need partners like Brabus to maintain a certain individuality for the brand? The Smart

What unites the software of new vehicles is a cacophony of annoying monitoring mechanisms. Why? These are legal requirements that we have to take into account. We stick to this, but of course we listen to our customers if a particular system is perceived as too intrusive. If we notice this, we will adjust it, of course within the framework of the legal requirements. But the assistants will no longer disappear.

Smart is a bit caught between two chairs. German brand, divided between a traditional German company and a Chinese manufacturer. The competition, including Elon Musk, is trying to prevent the Chinese from partially subsidized market dominance through punitive tariffs. How does Smart feel about this? Fundamentally, you cannot stop technological development. This applies generally and of course also to electric cars. We believe in fair and open competition. Especially since some people's demands to protect the national auto industry from Chinese manufacturers are not far-reaching. Germany is still an export nation. We should have a huge interest in trade that is as free as possible. If other countries demanded the same for our export goods, there would be a huge outcry. I think you should think this through thoroughly before making demands.

NEXT NEWS