Production end of the smart fortwo at the Hambach plant

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After more than 26 years, production of the smart fortwo at the Hambach plant on the German-French border, now owned by INEOS, ended on 28 March 2024.

Photo: smart 

At the end of 2020, Mercedes sold the Hambach plant to INEOS, who started the Grenadier off-roader production and a few months ago, the Quartermaster pick-up. According to the contract signed between the two parties, INEOS was supposed to produce the smart fortwo for another period, and that period has now ended.

More than 2.5 million units in 26 years

In 26 years, more than 2.5 million units smart fortwo have been produced at the Hambach plant, an average of less than 100,000 units per year. smart has become a 100% electric brand since 2019, and in the last 12 months, production has dropped to under 20,000 units.
Mercedes has stated several times that Smart has never been profitable. The Germans have tried several times to make the smart brand profitable but failed.

The attempt to broaden the range with the smart Coupe and Roadster was a failure. Only 43,000 units were sold from August 2002 to November 2005. Later, the smart Formore SUV concept unveiled in 2004 never made it to series production.

Another attempt followed with the smart fourfour. The first generation (W454) was a model based on the Mitsubishi Coilt and was produced at Mitsubishi’s NedCar plant in the Netherlands between 2004 and 2006. After eight years, in 2014, Mercedes tried to revitalize the smart forfour through cooperation with Renault, jointly developing the second-generation smart forfour and the third-generation Renault Twingo. Both were produced at Renault’s plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia. From 2014 to 2019 they had conventional engines, followed in 2017 by electric variants. Production of the smart forfour was stopped in 2021, while production of the Twingo continues. Renault unveiled last year a concept of a Twingo successor that it wants to sell from 2026 at a starting price of 20,000 euros.

Beginning of 2020: partnership with Geely

In early 2020, Mercedes announced it had signed a partnership with Chinese group Geely to form a 50-50 joint venture called “smart Automobile CO. Ltd” to produce the next generation of smart models in China.

The first model of the new smart era, the smart #1, was unveiled in the fall of 2022 and is a small-class SUV built on the SEA platform, together with the Volvo EX30. In spring 2023 the smart #3 SUV-coupe version was also unveiled, which is available at a slightly higher price than smart #1. Smart has announced that it will launch a new model every year, and the next one will be smart #5, a van that has nothing to do with the smart spirit. It measures 4.80 meters and is a shortened version of the Volvo EM90 concept.

For 2026, we finally expect a successor to the smart fortwo, which is the essence of the smart brand, but it’s too early for details. Most likely, the new model could be called smart #2, with Geely keeping this name for the two-seater.

Idea of Swtachmobile belongs to Nicolas Hayek, Swatch CEO

The idea for a small city model came from Nicolas Hayek, head of watchmaker Swatch, in 1982. His idea was known as the Swatchmobile. Initially, Hayek tried to work with VW, but after Ferdinand Piech became head of the VW concern in 1993, VW stopped all talks. Hayek was subsequently turned down by BMW, Fiat, General Motors, and Renault before Mercedes finally agreed to jointly develop the project. Initially, a 50-50% joint venture with a capital of 50 million Swiss francs was formed between Swatch and Mercedes. Hayek at least wanted a hybrid powertrain, but Mercedes chose to use a conventional engine. Before its launch in 1998, the smart faced serious stability problems. Chief engineer Johann Tomforde was replaced by Gerhard Fritz, who lowered the center of gravity, widened the wheelbase, modified the steering, and added more ballast to the front axle for better stability.
Disagreements with Mercedes over powertrain and increasing costs due to stability problems made Hayek give up, and Mercedes bought out Swatch’s shares in 1998, Smart becoming a 100% Daimler company.