History of the Smart Car

Smart Car Information That Puts Today Into Perspective

The history of the smart car is one piece of smart car information it is helpful to know as you become acquainted with smart cars.

history of the smart car

Smart car history all started back in 1995, when Swatch and Mercedes Benz decided to build a very small car for Europe, long before we Americans were even thinking about the need to drive such a small car...

The name "smart" comes from the partnership between Swatch and Mercedes (s+m) and the fact that they wanted to design an "artful" little car... so...
s + m + art = smart!

The smart fortwo car did not become available in the United States until January 2008, more than a decade after the smart car was actually "born!"

A History of the Smart Car Timeline...

Here is a timeline of smart car fortwo history you might find illuminating...

timeline of smart car history
  • 1993: Swatch watch inventor, Nicolas Hayek, takes his ideas for an "ultra-urban" car to Mercedes-Benz and a joint venture is born.

  • 1994: Mercedes-Benz engineers take on this challenge with a full development concept car.

  • 1997: The smart fortwo vehicle debuts at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with a fantastic response.

  • 1998: This leads to full production of the fortwo at the "Smartville" plant in Hambach, France. The smart fortwo cars were being bought in Europe and were finding a home on the small roads and tight parking spaces.

  • 2006: Plans were put in place to make the 2nd generation smart fortwo and introduce it to the United States.

  • 2007: A smart USA division was created and is a division of the Penske Automotive Group headed by Roger Penske. They are the exclusive distributors of the smart fortwo in America, with 74 smartcenters located throughout the country.

Sandcastle smart car

In January 2008, the U.S. became the 37th country to market and sell the smart car. The smart fortwo car got off to a great start in the U.S. back in 2008, with over 30,000 reservations made before it arrived... and over 25,000 delivered by the end of 2008. Unfortunately, the recession hit us in late 2008, and that slowed down the actual sales of smart cars considerably.

In fact, I had to turn down the smart car I originally reserved, when it finally arrived in March of 2009, after more than a year wait. Like many Americans, the economy had an impact on my job and I could no longer justify a new car, no matter how fuel-efficient it would be.

Because so many smart car enthusiasts had to turn down their cars when they finally arrived, smart car dealers now had surpluses on their hands of cars that once had such a long waiting list. Unreal...

But the Smart Fortwo Car Had Definitely Found a Home in America...

Smart sales might not be as crazy now as they were in early 2008, but the smart car is definitely gaining popularity here all the time. Here's what the smartUSA website has to say about its success it America (emphasis added by me):

"The key to the initial success in America is the realization that the smart fortwo is the right car at the right time. Shortly after launch, the price of fuel in the U.S. skyrocketed and fuel prices continue to fluctuate today. Combined with efforts to be environmentally responsible and finding solutions for urban congestion, the smart fortwo quickly became an attractive vehicle option for many American consumers."

... and ...

"The smart fortwo buyer is characterized by take charge people, typically early adopters, who make a statement about who they are through the products they buy."

I like the sound of that!

I hope you found this little history of the smart car to be informative.

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Hi smart enthusiasts!

Jim McCue picture

Welcome to the site! I'm Jim, and I'm here to guide you through a journey of smart car discovery. So, look around & drill down as much as you want to for all the smart fortwo details you're looking for. Read and interact! And feel free to contact me!

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