At the beginning of the 1990s, research showed that each car carried an average of only 1.2 people. Commuters stuck in rush-hour traffic can look around to confirm this claim.
In addition to increased urban congestion, vehicles are driven, on average fewer than 18 miles per day. Vehicles are also parked 90 percent of the time. Finding a parking space can also be a challenge in many cities across the country. The smart fortwo offers a perfect solution to many challenges facing today’s cities while at the same time provides a unique transportation solution for others living outside of a city center.
Joint venture with Swatch
In 1972, Mercedes-Benz developed the concept of a super compact automobile measuring less than 100 inches. However, at that time technical implementation of the concept was not possible because of the strict safety standards of Mercedes-Benz.
In 1989, Nicolas G. Hayek, the inventor of Swatch watches, announced that he wanted to bring a small city car onto the market. Hayek’s vision was to create a car that could be changed as easily as a Swatch watch. To this day, smart owners interchange body panels easily creating a new look to their vehicle in a matter of hours. To realize this idea, Hayek searched for an experienced automotive partner. The joint venture founded in 1994 united the creative strength of Swatch with a hundred years of Mercedes-Benz engineerig experience. The cooperation led to a unique vehicle concept and to a new automotive brand: smart.
Three years after vehicle development work began in 1994, the smart fortwo made its world debut at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt in 1997. Production began in July 1998 in a new plant in Hambach, France.
The following October saw the new car being sold for the first time in nine European countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland). During the same year, smart became a wholly-owned subsidiary of what is now Daimler AG. The USA is now the 37th country to sell the smart fortwo.