Actually, the Smart brand is an extension of Daimler AG, the German automobile and truck manufacturing giant, which also owns Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and more. The origins of the concept of the 1998 Mercedes Smart are not new; indeed, the idea of a small, relatively inexpensive car made almost exclusively for city use had been floating around for quite some time. In the 90s, it was pushed by Swatch, the Swiss watchmakers, who would eventually ally with Daimler to produce the car, at the same time saving themselves the outrageous expense of setting up a distribution network. Most Smart cars are assembled in Hambach, France as well as in Germany.
The original 1998 Smart was powered by a turbocharged, inline three cylinder engine, with a 600cc displacement, that produced 55 horsepower. Despite being designed for city use, it could get to a top speed 84 miles per hour, and accelerate to 60 in 16 seconds, which aren’t bad for a car with a 600cc engine.
Mercedes knew they were going to have tough time selling the safety angle of the car, and spent a lot of time and money ensuring that it was as safe as it could be, going so far as replacing the rear suspension at the eleventh hour when it proved unsafe at speed.
Over 10 years down the line, it is unclear if Daimler is actually making a profit from the 1998 Mercedes Smart and its successors, but it’s certain that the little car, with its funky design and post-modern interior, has been a success.