A division of Daimler-Benz AG, smart creates a number of eco-friendly cars. Vehicles, including the signature smart fortwo, are available in internal combustion, electric and sports models, with current options including the pure coupe, passion cabriolet and electric drive. Headquartered in Boblingen, Germany, smart’s main assembly plant is located in Hambach, France. Celebrated around the globe as a symbol of “innovation, intelligence and functionality,” smart is a fuel-efficient transportation option.
In the late 1980s, SMH (Swatch watch maker) CEO Nicholas Hayek envisioned a car that utilized the same manufacturing strategies and customization options as his famous watches. Hayek felt a smart, “ultra-modern” urban car was a missing piece of the vehicle market and began developing the “Swatchmobile.” Rather than directly compete with other manufacturers and place all financial burden on SMH, Hayek opted to partner with another automotive company. He signed a deal with Volkswagen in July 1991.
In 1993 Volkswagen CEO Ferdinand Piëch sought to end the agreement with SMH, and Hayek looked for other companies to work with. Following rejections from BMW, General Motors and Fiat among others, Hayek made an informal agreement with Daimler-Benz AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz. A formal deal was announced in March of 1994.
The smart car made its debut at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show, and the assembly plant officially opened in October of that year with help from the president and chancellor of France and Germany, respectively. The car became available in 1998. Over one million cars were sold in some 40 countries before smart arrived on U.S. shores. in early 2008. The 37th country to sell the vehicle, over 45,000 smart fortwos have sold in the U.S. since then. smart cars were distributed by Penske Automotive Group in the U.S. until July 2011, after which smart became a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz USA.
The smart fortwo remains the company’s flagship model, launching in 1998 with production surpassing 1.6 million units in mid-2013. A two-passenger, two-door city car featuring rear-engine, rear-wheel drive, the vehicle is currently in its third generation.
Noted for its 2.69 meter length, offset passenger and driver seats, and high H-point ceiling, the smart fortwo also features low CO2 emissions, automated manual transmission, De Dion tube rear suspension, interchangeable plastic body panels, two-part rear hatch and steel hemispherical safety-cell. The latter is frequently a different color than the rest of the car body.
Third-generation smart fortwos are available as two-seaters and four-seaters, the fortwo and the forfour. The car will reportedly share 70% of its parts with the third generation Renault Twingo.
Smart currently produces five different car models, two coupes, a cabriolet and an electric option.
Smart’s current line includes the passion cabriolet (mini convertible), passion coupe (mini coupe with panoramic roof), pure coupe (mini coupe with solid roof), electric drive coupe (solid roof) and electric cabriolet (convertible roof).
Customers have the opportunity to “build their own” smart car, which includes selecting the model, appearance, interior, audio and safety features, and more. With so many customization options, there’s truly a smart car for everyone.
Smart has produced a range of fuel-efficient coupe and cabriolet vehicles since 1998. The smart City Coupe and City-Cabrio were produced from 1998 to 2007, and renamed the fortwo in 2004. The smart Crossblade is a 2002 limited-edition variant of the city cabrio made without a roof, windshield or convertible doors, while the smart K is a Japan-only model manufactured from 2001 to 2004.
Smart forfour was originally produced from 2004 to 2006, and is currently in production.
The smart car remains a success due to its quality design, performance capabilities and compact form. The word ‘smart’ was originally an acronym for “Swatch Mercedes Art,” however a neutral name was chosen following the company’s partnership with Daimler-Benz. Annette Winkler has worked as the company’s CEO since 2010, and is the first woman to run a Daimler brand.
One of the top fuel-efficient cars with a gasoline engine in the U.S., smart cars are renowned for their high global crash test rating and passenger safety standards. Featuring an incredibly small front crumple zone, the new smart fortwo has received 4 out of 5 stars from the Euro NCAP Adult Occupant Protection. In U.S. tests, it received a 4 out of 5-star driver front impact rating, and a 5-star rating for driver-side impact.
Before 2008, smart cars were only available in the U.S. as “grey import vehicles,” or vehicles legally imported from another country from a source besides the official manufacturer. Buying a smart fortwo originally required making a $99 “reservation” through a dealer or website with a waiting time of 12 months.
Future vehicles are set to include new color combinations, smartphone integration, new axle designs, three assistance systems, bluetooth technology and JBL sound system.