Hayek shopped the idea to several potential automotive partners, including General Motors, before establishing a preliminary partnership with Volkswagen. When that relationship fell through, Swatch cut a deal with Daimler-Benz. The resulting company, then called Micro Compact Car AG, was founded in 1994. (The name "Smart" is a semi-acronym, standing for Swatch Mercedes ART.) A factory complex was built in France, and the first Smart City Coupe rolled off the assembly line in 1998. It was followed, in 2000, by the City Cabrio convertible. These models were given the now-current Fortwo designation in 2004.
- Founded : 1994
- Headquarters : Böblingen, Germany
- Owner : Daimler AG
- Website : www.smart.com
During the new company's first decade, several additional models were introduced, either as concepts or in limited production runs. A five-door hatchback, called Smart Forfour, was offered from 2004 to 2006. Based on the 2003 Mitsubishi Colt, the Forfour wasn't built in the Smart factory, but rather in the same Netherlands plant that produced the Volvo V40. A Smart Roadster, built on a stretched Fortwo platform and styled to look more like a conventional car, was offered from 2003 to 2005.
Despite Smart's lengthy teething pains, the company managed, in its first decade, to deliver 900,000 vehicles throughout the world. Mercedes is now on track to fulfill Hayek's ambition of using alternative powerplants, with an electrically driven Fortwo planned for a 2010 introduction. Alas, parking regulations in much of the world--including most U.S. municipalities--make it illegal to park the Smart nose-in against the curb.