Everyone thought Smart was a goner, myself included. But then in the dead of night (at least here in the U.S.) Daimler announced something entirely different: Smart will live on. There is a catch.
To pull this off with a brand that’s been bleeding cash like a stuck pig, Daimler strengthened its ties with Chinese automaker Geely. Smart will become a 50-50 joint venture between the two automotive giants, following the trend of increasing collaboration between automakers.
Like before, the Smart brand is switching to all-electric powertrains only. With something so small and intended really only for urban use, that makes sense. It also makes sense that the Chinese automaker would be interested in the microcar, considering so many cities like Beijing are congested enough that anything larger becomes a liability.
As per the new agreement, Mercedes-Benz Design will deal with the aesthetics of future Smarts, while Geely will handle the engineering end of things. Production will be moved to China, freeing Mercedes-Benz to make a new compact electric vehicle in Hambach, where Smarts are currently manufactured.
This is great news for fans of Smart. They can continue driving their weird, little car whilst looking down on people driving SUVs — figuratively, of course. If another oil crisis strikes, Smart could suddenly become important again, and Daimler will be able to ride that wave once more.