What's So Smart About It?
The name "Smart" came from a combination of Swatch, Mercedes and the word "art." The company also markets the cars with the brand and model name in lowercase to emphasize their small size.
The Smart Car began with Nicolas Hayek, the man who invented Swatch watches. He wanted to make a small car that would be fuel efficient, environmentally responsible and easy to park in small spaces. The Swatch Company collaborated with Daimler-Benz (after a failed venture with Volkswagen) to create the first City Coupe under the company name Micro Compact Car (MCC). Development began in 1994, and the first car was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1997. The MCC went on sale the following year, but Hayek was disappointed with the use of a conventional engine -- he'd wanted a hybrid or pure electric motor -- and the price of the car, which was higher than expected. When initial sales were slow, Swatch pulled out of the partnership, leaving Daimler-Benz (now DaimlerChrysler) full owner of the Smart division. Today, Smart is part of DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes group.
When you see the Smart Car, the first thing that you notice is its size. The City Coupe (renamed the "Fortwo" once Smart began releasing other models), is only 8 feet, 2.5 inches long, less than 5 feet wide and about 5 feet tall. (In comparison, the original Hummer H1 is over 7 feet wide.) That means that instead of parallel parking in line with other cars, a Smart Car can back right up to the curb. Two or three Smart Cars can park that way in a single curbside parking space.