With the announcement that Smart would be going all-electric, Daimler has now turned to Chinese maker Geely in a 50:50 partnership to develop the next generation of Smart cars.
Smart, which started out in the mid-1980s in Switzerland as the Swatchmobile, before finding a partner in German-corporation Daimler to build the cars in France, will now shift production to China as it plans its global assault on the EV market. New products are expected to start rolling out in 2022.
“We look forward to further enhancing the (Smart) brand with Geely Holding, a strong partner in the electric vehicle segment,” said Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “We will jointly design and develop the next generation of Smart electric cars that combine high-quality production and known safety standards for sale both in China and globally.”
In order to keep jobs in Hambach, France (at the complex affectionately called Smartville), Mercedes-Benz will develop and produce a compact electric vehicle under the EQ brand. The plant will continue to build the Smart EQ Fortwo until the 2022 start of production in China. The Smart EQ Forfour is built in Slovenia.
The Smart joint venture will have its own board of directors made up of three representatives each from Daimler and Geely, including three top executives from Geely. Mercedes-Benz will be responsible for vehicle design and Geely will be responsible for engineering.
The partners have already announced that part of the Smart vehicle-development program includes a B-segment car, a segment that currently includes models like the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen Polo.
“Geely Holding and Daimler look forward to this challenging and exciting new project, through which we will further push the introduction of premium electric products to give a better mobility experience to our customers,” said Li Shufu, Geely Holding Chairman, one of the new company’s board of directors. “As equal partners, we are dedicated to promoting the Smart brand globally; we will leverage our experience and global competencies in brand management, R&D, manufacturing, supply chain management and other areas. The synergies from this cooperation will lead to mutual benefits, at the same time we will further develop technologies for Smart including connectivity, to continue to lead in the industry as it undergoes a wider transformation.”
Financial terms of the smart joint venture have not been disclosed, and the deal is expected to be finalized by the end of 2019.