At the end of 1982, Swiss Nicholas Hayek, the man behind the Swatch watches, decided that there was a need for a small city car: a two-seater with hybrid drive that, like his fancy watches, could be personalized in all kinds of ways. Hayek sought cooperation with a car manufacturer and eventually Daimler-Benz caught on. Together they founded the Micro Car Company in 1994 and the new car was called Smart – a nice contraction of Swatch Mercedes Art – CityCoupé.
A factory complex called Smartville was built in Hambach, France. There, suppliers could manufacture their components for the car and install them in the Smart themselves. An innovative way of producing that was also financially beneficial for MCC. Still, the company needed more money, and Daimler-Benz increased its stake in MCC to 81 percent. The Smart CityCoupé was to be introduced in March 1998, but because the car turned out to be unstable, it was postponed until October so that the car could be improved.
Smarts were sold in special eye-catching glass towers, showing the Smart dealer’s stock from afar. The CityCoupé’s body panels, made of impact-resistant plastic, are easy to replace; the idea behind it is that the owner could very easily give his Smart a personal or new look. The small Smarts became quite popular, but were mainly used by companies as an advertising car.
Spiritual father Hayek was not satisfied with the final car. He had wanted a hybrid drive instead of a three-cylinder turbo engine of 600 cm3 and was bought out. MCC was now a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler-Benz. In 2000 the company was renamed Smart GmbH and the CityCoupé was renamed Fortwo. The Smart Forfour was produced from 2004 to 2006 at NedCar in Born in the Netherlands.
Ambitious: Smart wants to have a fully electric model range from 2020. All petrol versions will then expire. From January 1, 2019, the brand will only supply fully electric versions in the Netherlands.