Smart logoSmart, formerly Smart GmbH (formerly MCC Smart GmbH), an automotive brand of Daimler AG, is a manufacturer of microcars and superminis based in Böblingen, Germany, produced in Hambach (France).
It is marketed as the “smart” in all lower-case, with the current Smart brand logo denoting a letter “c” for “compact” and an arrow for “forward thinking”.
The idea behind the car was to create a vehicle easy to park and short enough to allow “nose-in” parking. Its length of 250 centimeters would equal the width of a regular parking slot, allowing two or three Smarts to park in the same space as one normal car.
The project, started by Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch, was nicknamed the “Swatchmobile”. The name Smart is an acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART. Intended to use innovative features (such as a hybrid engine) and be affordable for young people, the Smart had similar design objective to the Citroën 2CV of the 1940s.
Swatch CEO Nicolas Hayek sought an established car maker to produce his Swatch car. After General Motors reviewed and rejected the project as potentially unprofitable, Hayek found a partner in Volkswagen. Due to VW’s own financial weakness at the time, plans never reached a final stage so Swatch teamed up with Daimler-Benz. The purpose-built factory complex Smartville in Hambach, France, was established in 1994 as a joint-venture of Daimler-Benz and Swatch.
An Australian dealer web site provides the following summary of the beginnings of the product:
“How everything began: In 1993 Mercedes-Benz started a feasibility study on a subcompact car. Together with the Swatch Group Ltd. they founded the Micro Compact Car AG in 1994. The Smart city-coupé celebrates its world première at the IAA in Frankfurt (Germany) in 1997 and is one year successfully launched in nine European countries. By now, the Smart is available in 37 countries all over the world and was sold over 750,000 times.”
The final car design proved to be far from Hayek’s expectations: its engine eco-technology was outside of Mercedes’ goal. The joint venture experienced heavy losses and dispute when Swatch pulled out.
In 2005, DaimlerChrysler decided against purchasing a 50% share in the Dutch NedCar plant used to manufacture the Forfour supermini. DaimlerChrysler also halted development on the Formore and decided to discontinue production of the Roadster.
In 2006, after dwindling sales, Smart GmbH was liquidated and its operations were absorbed within the Mercedes-Benz automobile group. Smart GmbH lost nearly 4 billion euros from 2003 to 2006.