This week, rumors surfaced regarding the impending demise of Daimler’s city car brand, Smart. The recent buzz may have prompted Daimler to announce its actual plans for its ailing small car division. For the past few years, Daimler has been repositioning Smart to focus on electric vehicles, and a new partner has come in to help achieve this goal. Under a new joint venture, Daimler will work with China’s Geely to develop new electric Smart cars and operate the brand globally.
The deal puts Mercedes-Benz in charge of styling, and Geely will contribute its engineering resources. A new generation of Smart EVs will enter production at a new electric car factory in China. Global sales of new Smart vehicles are expected to start in 2022. Although the automakers haven’t gone into specifics, they plan for Smart to enter the B-segment at some point.
Each automaker will hold a 50-percent stake in the joint venture. The two companies have been linked prior to this announcement, too. Last year, Geely Chairman Li Shufu acquired a 9.7-percent stake in Daimler. Daimler and Geely have committed to working together on a premium ride-hailing service in China.
Before launching its next-generation Smart models, Daimler will keep producing Smart cars at its Hambach plant in France and its Novo Mesto plant in Slovenia. Also, Hambach will start making a compact electric vehicle from Mercedes-Benz’s EQ unit.
The joint venture is expected to be finalized by the end of the year. The automakers have not disclosed financial terms of the deal.