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Daimler, Geely form 50-50 joint venture to operate Smart brand

Smart will launch a new China-built model by 2022.

Smart Forease+ Concept
Smart showed this all-electric Forease+ concept at the Geneva Motor Show.

Smart is getting new ownership in a new deal between current parent Daimler and China's Geely Holding. The two companies announced Thursday they are forming a joint venture to run Smart, in which each holds a 50 percent stake. Daimler has owned Smart entirely since 1998.

The new Smart will launch a new all-electric model that will be built at a new factory in China from 2022. Mercedes-Benz Design will handle styling for the future Smart models, while Geely will handle engineering and production in China. In addition, Smart wants to expand beyond today's micro cars, with plans for the model range to be "extended into the fast-growing B-segment."

From now through the launch of the new EV, however, Smart will continue to manufacture and sell its existing models at its factories in Slovenia, where the EQ Forfour is built, and France, where Smart manufactures the EQ Fortwo. Smart currently only sells the EQ Fortwo electric models in the US. After production of the Fortwo ends, Mercedes will repurpose the plant in Hambach, France, to build a new compact all-electric model from its EQ family, though details on that model were not revealed.

Though Daimler does not break out Smart's financials, reports suggest the brand had been struggling. In the US, the brand sold just 1,276 cars in all of 2018 -- down 58.5 percent compared to 2017. The news comes on the heels of reports that Daimler was considering killing Smart, but Geely's intervention assures the brand will survive.