Smart Car manufacturers

August 18, 2015

Smart Car manufacturers

Smart Automobile is a division of Daimler AG that manufactures and markets the smart Fortwo and smart Forfour. The official trademarked name is "smart" with all lowercase letters ("Smart" is incorrect spelling). Now a member of the Daimler AG family of automotive brands, the Smart project was initiated by Swatch, the Swiss watch company. Headquartered in Böblingen, Germany, smart has marketed a range of microcar and subcompact vehicles, with its primary assembly plants located in Hambach, France and Novo Mesto, Slovenia. Swatch's CEO, Nicolas Hayek, wanted to build a car whose overall length was the same as the width of a standard street parking spot--small enough to park nose-in, thus allowing two or three cars to park in one space. Other design goals included innovative powerplant technology and an entry-level price.

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 :
The initial design of the production City Coupe proved to have significant--and well-publicized--stability problems. The necessary alterations proved costly and detrimental to the original's sporty driving experience. As a result, initial sales were low. That factor, along with Hayek's disappointment that a standard gasoline (rather than hybrid or electric) engine was used, led to Swatch's abandonment of the project. The company, already renamed Smart GmbH, became a wholly owned property of Daimler-Benz. Smart GmbH lost nearly four billion euros between 2003 and 2006, at which point it ceased to exist as a separate entity and was folded into the Mercedes-Benz group.

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.