smart Automobile is a division under Daimler AG. The origin of the smart car is rather unusual because it started with a rather distant industry, watches. The 1982 CEO of SMH, makers of the Swatch watch, Nicolas Hayek had the idea that automobiles have forgotten—if not ignored—the idea of possible customers who wish to own a petite stylish city car. This idea became what is known as the ‘Swatchmobile’. Hayek private company, the Hayek Engineering AG, started to design this ‘Swatchmobile’. The company came up with a two-seater hybrid drivetrain.
Fearing the possible cost of starting a new line of vehicles, direct competition against big automobile brands and threat posed by the Swatchmobile, Hayek searched for a company which would be willing to sign an agreement with the development of this new project. And in 1991, he was able to reach an agreement with Volkswagen. However, despite the agreement, Hayek still sought for other companies willing to collaborate with him. Volkswagen didn’t see it as a more profitable prospect because it has plans for a small vehicle that has offers more seating arrangements and more cargo room. With this discrete search, he reached an informal agreement with Daimler-Benz AG. This agreement was publicly formalized on March 4, 1994 at a press conference in Stuttgart, Mercedes-Benz headquarters. The press conference released the founding of the Micro Compact Car AG. Mercedes-Benz would finance and manufacture the vehicle while Hayek, through the SMH Auto SA, would design a hybrid electric drive system and, through Hayek Engineering, the design and manufacturing will be audited. It was released that two concept vehicles will be released: the eco-sprinter and the eco-speedster. By April 1994, a head office in Biel, Switzerland for MCC was set up.
An issue arose however when Hayek wished for the vehicle to be called ‘Swatchmobile’ or ‘Swatch Car’, however, Mercedes-Benz chose the name smart, an all-small caps acronym for Swatch Mercedes ART which was also trademarked by MCC. The location for the MCC plant was finally chosen on December 1994 at Hambach, France and it quickly earned the name, ‘smartville’. In order to lessen the cost of labor, employees of the mother plant be used to manufacture the smart car.
By October 1997, the plant was officially opened. The smart car was announced to be launched in late 1998. Before the vehicle is manufactured, the new chief engineer, Gerhard Fritz tweaked the mechanics of the smart car by lowering the center of gravity by widening the track, stiffening the suspension, changing the steering, and adding ballast weight in the front of the car. This weight will be able to increase the stability of the vehicle in emergency cases where avoidance maneuvering will be needed; this was called the ‘moose test’. The launch in October 1998 became very successful.
The expansion now included the Roadster named Forfour. The Forfour has a rear engine, rear-drive and fro-door, four-seat supermini. But because the expansion did not gain enough profit, the company lost billions of euros this then led to the closure of plants and the ceasing of manufacturing of the vehicles until DaimlerChrysler absorbed the operations directly.
The smart logo features a bloc letter ‘C’ and an orange or yellow arrow. The ‘C’ stands for ‘compact’ since it is the distinguishing feature of the smart car and the arrow signifies ‘forward thinking’ or ‘continuous progress’.
Under the supervision of Mercedes, smart only offers the following vehicle models:
- Fortwo coupe
This is the original MCC vehicle that was designed as the petite supermini city car that only fits two people in the vehicle.
- Cabrio/ Cabriolet
This is the convertible version of the Fortwo.
Due to heavy losses, the manufacturing of the Forfour ceased. This was the bigger version of the Fortwo, it can accommodate four seats and a wider cargo room.
The smart Automobile’s headquarters is located in Boblingen, Germany. The primary manufacturing plant was at Hambach, France and another plant is at Novo Mesto, Slovenia.
What To Love about Smart?
Trendy, Easy-to-drive Easy-to-navigate and Easy-to-maintain
This is the dream city vehicle to own. Popular in Europe due to its style and the finesse of a car it brings to the city streets, smart cars are relatively very easy to drive with and fairly easy to use.
What Not To Love About Smart?
Limited to high quality city streets only
The smart car is made to fit the flat hard paved road, so roads probably found in the third-world countries would not benefit much from the smart car.
Images Source: Wikimedia.org.