A Joint Venture story
The smart brand has always been a front-runner when it comes to city cars. To maintain its pioneering role in this area and to further its mission of providing electric mobility and shared services to the cities of tomorrow, its parent company Mercedes-Benz AG decided to team up with a Chinese mobility powerhouse: Geely Automobile Group Co., Ltd. and form the smart Automobile Co., Ltd.
Why? To start, the advantages of a very diverse international company are vast: the union of many different nationalities and people speaking different languages is able to provide a greater understanding of the many different markets across the globe. Daimler and Geely already have strong global networks, but the strengthening of cultural insight is invaluable in today’s global economy.
And as smart is the ultimate city car, who better than China knows about big cities? It tops the world list in this category, having 121 metropolises with over one million inhabitants. But of course, there’s more to it than that: the union is a 50/50 partnership between the two automotive leaders and draws on each other’s strengths. Strengths like the strong global engineering of Geely or the expertise of the Mercedes-Benz research and development team. Strengths such as strong sales and service networks in both China and Europe. Strengths that will allow smart to capitalize on the growing demand for electric vehicles all over the world but especially in China.
smart – THE electric-car brand for the city – is poised to take advantage of the increasing demand for sustainable urban transportation. The partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Geely will only help to maximize the synergies.
smart has always marched to the beat of a different drum. But the music’s been playing for longer than you might think…
Many of you probably still remember when the quirky and cool smart brand made its debut in 1997 at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA). Actually, the roots of smart go back 25 years further, to 1972. It was then that Daimler came up with a concept for a small city car in response to increasing congestion in cities as well as intensifying air pollution.
While this initial concept made it off the drawing board and into the form of a tubular-frame test vehicle, it was shelved until 1981. That year another concept reinterpreted the initial one in more concrete terms. It was called the NAFA – short for “Nahverkehrsfahrzeug” – the German abbreviation for “short-distance vehicle”. It fulfilled the demands on a low-emission city car with a small footprint but outstandingly efficient use of space. Unfortunately, the technology for small-car safety at the time did not meet Daimler’s high safety standards. It would be over a decade before the technology caught up…
Setting the tone for the future
…fast forward to 1994, when Daimler formed a partnership with Nicholas Hayek and his company Swatch, the funky Swiss watchmaker. The smart name comes from the combination of the Swatch name plus Mercedes and art (Swatch Mercedes ART) This partnership led to the first smart concept car shown at the ’97 IAA and then the start of production the following year.
Since then, smart has produced a number of models and concepts in differing body styles:
- 2015–2017smart fortwo & forfour
- 2017–todaysmart becomes part of the EQ family with smart EQ fortwo, fortwo cabrio & forfour
- 2003–2005smart Roadster Coupé & smart Roadster Cabrio
- 2008–2016smart electric drive
- 2007–2015smart fortwo & smart fortwo Cabrio
- 1998-2000smart City-Coupé (& City-Cabrio from 2000)
- 2000smart City Cabrio
- 2004–2006smart forfour
- 2001–2004smart K (Japan)
smart set the tone for its future in 2007 when it introduced a test fleet of 100 fully electric fortwos in London. After a series of partial test rollouts, full mass production of the smart fortwo EV commenced in 2011.
smart has also been a pioneer when it comes to services. It was a part of the popular car2go inner-city car-sharing program at its inception, and the smart fortwo remains one of the most popular models in car2go’s successor ShareNow program.
In 2020, smart became the first automotive brand ever to switch from internal-combustion engines to all-electric drivetrains. That same year, Mercedes-Benz AG and Geely Automobile Group Co., Ltd. founded the new smart joint venture for the future generation of smart products. Slated to launch in 2022, the new generation of smart vehicles will make good on the promise of electric mobility for the city.