More About Smart
This journey of the initial 12 years was rough for the company, but it saw light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Daimler-Benz AG. Since then, Smart as a company has gone through many hardships, some financial, some legal, some internal. Even then, after 27 years the company stands strong and has a respectable market following. Smart is known for its microcars and subcompact cars. The first car launched in 1998, was called the W450 (Fortwo). However, the creation of their first car itself was a controversial one, as the controversy was regarding the name of the car. The initial name was Swatchmobile, but Daimler wanted a more neutral name and Smart was selected and launched in 1998 with a gasoline engine. The main ideologist behind Smart, Nicolas Hayek was not satisfied with the gasoline-powered car as he wanted to develop a hybrid drivetrain in place of a gasoline one. However, the car was successful and similar models followed, with the electric version which came in 2006. Now, Smart is marketed in 49 countries around the world, and the production of Fortwo has passed more than 1.7 million units by 2015. In 2019, Smart sold around 116,781 cars worldwide.
Smart was founded in 1994 as a result of a collaboration between Daimler-Benz and SMH. The founded company was called Micro Compact Car AG (MCC). The idea was initially laid down in 1982 by SMH CEO Nicolas Hayek. SMH was a watch company. Nicolas’s idea was to create a car using the same type of manufacturing strategies and personalization features that were used in Swatch watches. His belief was to create a small and stylish city car. As he worked on the designs in his own design company Hayek Engineering AG, he feared existing car makers would feel threatened by his idea, and hence decided to collaborate with another company. Nicolas had his first successful agreement with Volkswagen in 1991, and work began on the car. But in 1993, the CEO of Volkswagen, Ferdinand Piëch sought to terminate the project with SMH as Volkswagen had already been working on their own "three-liter car": a car which would consume three liters of fuel per 100 kilometers of driving. Hayek suspected this and discreetly began approaching other companies like BMW, Fiat, General Motors, and Renault. He got rejected and finally reached an informal agreement with Daimler-Benz AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz cars. The deal was announced in 1994.
The Smart Fortwo was the first car launched by Smart way back in 1998. It was launched in 9 European countries as the W450 series build. It is a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-passenger microcar. This was one of the most successful cars of Smart, and it is still on sale. Three generations of the car have been developed. The first generation was from 1998-2007, the second generation from 2007-2014, and the third from 2014-present. The cars have weird names, as the second-generation cars were called W451, but the third-generation cars came to be called W453, A453 (Cabriolet). The 1st generation cars were powered by a 0.7L engine (petrol) and a 0.8L engine (diesel). The second generation got better with more refined and smoother 1L engines. The increase in engine capacity has come at a small increase in size. The current 3rd generation cars come with a 1L engine and a 66kW electric motor.
Because of the success of the W450, the model line was expanded to include a roadster variant which was a 4-seater named the Forfour. This expansion did not work well as the company lost around 4 billion euros from 2003-2006. Methods were taken to increase the company's profitability and integrate its operations with Daimler. In 2005, Daimler decided against purchasing a 50% share in the Dutch NedCar plant used to manufacture the ForFour, ending its production. A planned SUV called Formore was terminated as the assembly plant in Brazil was being fitted with machines, and production of the Roadster was discontinued. In 2006, after dwindling sales and heavy financial losses, Smart GmbH was liquidated and its operations were absorbed by DaimlerChrysler directly. Until April 2019, Smart operated under the Mercedes-Benz Cars division of Daimler AG, offering the Fortwo coupé, Fortwo convertible, and Forfour hatchback. In 2019, Daimler announced a new production plant will be built in China with support from Geely and will start production of next-generation Smart Cars.
Currently, there are 3 models of Smart on sale globally. The Smart Fortwo, Fortwo Cabriolet, Smart ForFour. The cars come as gasoline-powered as well as electric-powered. The cars have improved across generations of developments and are very easy city microcars. The overall design of the Smart models is unique, sporty, and futuristic. However, the sales have dropped, with only around 700 cars sold in the US in 2019. New Smart cars have come out which come as complete electric since 2020, with similar tech specs.