More smart than ever before: Joint venture of Geely and Daimler

Today we have announced that the next generation of smart cars will be developed in a joint venture by Geely and Daimler, and be built in China for the global market.

This decision involves far more than the choice of another world class production location. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in the history of smart — a chapter that includes new models, entry into new segments, and the start of a new period of growth.

That’s because we believe: Our smallest vehicle still has huge potential – in China and beyond. Geely is the right partner to take advantage of these opportunities. Together, we want to make sure that smart can be – more clearly than ever before – what it has been from the very start: a pioneer of urban mobility.

smart urbanization, e-mobility and connectivity

The first smart model provided an automotive answer to urbanization as early as 1997 — long before this had grown into a megatrend. So, it’s a perfect fit that smart will also be at home in the country that already has more than 100 cities with populations of over one million people: China. And Geely’s decades of experience in this market is a decisive advantage to expand the global reach of the smart idea.

smart was also early on when it comes to e-mobility. From the very beginning, it was planned to be fully electric. With the “electric drive” it was the first series-produced electric car in Europe — and it has been a success. That’s why we’ve decided to turn smart into an all-electric brand. Now it is only logical that the electric future of smart is also emerging in China. After all, China has more electric vehicles than all the other countries in the world combined. Geely strongly contributes to this, because this company is driving the electrification of its international model range with the same determination.

Next, it was already possible to integrate smartphones in smart cars before the name “smartphone” even existed. In 2002 such devices were still called personal digital assistants, or PDAs. But even back then, smart customers had online access while they were on the road. (Admittedly, the loading times were often longer than the driving times.)

Today, connectivity at 5G speed opens up a whole universe of opportunities. Together with Geely, we are therefore investing not only money but also talent and experience of both of our companies to use all this potential for our smart customers around the world.

smart services, smart carsharing

We also want smart drivers to always have the reassuring sense that their car is practical — even when they’re not driving it. That’s why we’ve thought far beyond the vehicle itself from the very beginning — for example with smart services such as package delivery directly to the trunk of your car. In line with this approach, we will work together with Geely to develop not only new models in new segments but also new services. And we’ll use our synergies to scale them globally.

Nowadays, “sharing instead of owning” is another major trend. With car2go and smart, we were the first company to offer a free-floating carsharing system. The pilot project of car2go was launched in 2008. Today we’re working together with BMW in the area of carsharing. And Geely shares our conviction that there is a huge demand for seamless premium services for the urban mobility of tomorrow. That’s why we’ve already launched an initial joint venture with Geely to offer a ride-hailing service.

Joint venture of Geely and Daimler

Of course all of these decisions involve major changes. And that’s why I’d like to underline this important message: None of our colleagues at smart will lose their jobs as a result of these decisions. On the contrary. We need the passion and creativity of the smart team more than ever. After all, these changes are no ending for smart – but a new beginning.

Signing ceremony of Strategic Cooperation for smart between Daimler and Geely. From left to right: An Conghui, Geely Holding President and Geely Auto Group President and CEO, Li Shufu, Geely Holding Chairman, Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Ola Källenius, Board of Management Member responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

Our current model series will run as planned until the end of its life cycle. And we will continue to invest in this successful product: This year, our facelifted models will hit the dealerships. As of the start of the next decade, our smart production plant in Hambach/France will use its extensive experience to also start producing all-electric Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Our Daimler colleagues in the development, sales, and marketing of smart will either continue to work in the new joint venture or use their know-how to take on other responsibilities within our Group. That will also apply to the head of smart, Katrin Adt, who in recent months has led the entire transformation of smart. I would like to thank Katrin and her entire team for their outstanding effort!

My basic conviction is that smart has always been a brand for people who question the status-quo. That applies to our customers and also to our colleagues. Consequently, in spite of all our success and the significantly more than two million sold smart cars, we are not simply continuing on the path we’ve taken in the past 20 years. The big idea of the little smart still has so much more potential. That’s why we want to strike out in new directions together with Geely. And this approach fits smart perfectly. Radical rethinking has been part of this unique brand’s DNA from the very beginning. It still is. And that’s how it should be.


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Dieter Zetsche is Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.