Image: Smart

As part of Daimler’s plan to transform its Smart brand into an urban electric car company, it was announced on Tuesday that CEO Annette Winkler is to step down at the end of September.

Daimler’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche, said: “Annette Winkler has had a successful and lasting impact on Mercedes-Benz and especially on Smart, over a period of many years.” She will now be appointed to Mercedes-Benz South Africa’s supervisory board from September 2019. Her replacement at the helm of Smart is to be announced at a later date.

The original two-seater Smart car was first launched 20 years ago and has always struggled to become popular. Although Smart’s financial details aren’t released by Daimler, private banking company Bankhaus Metzler estimates that the company loses about 200 million euros a year. Last year, deliveries fell 6 percent to 136,000 vehicles. Previous attempts to reboot the brand, with several new models such as the roadster, didn’t last long.

It seems that Smart’s main selling point – parking convenience – isn’t enough. It makes sense, therefore, that Daimler wants to try something new and it hopes that abandoning traditionally fuelled engines could offer the boost the brand needs. If Smart manages to stop producing vehicles with combustion engines by 2020, it will become one of the first all-electric brands on the market. This could make all the difference as fuel-type is becoming a bigger concern for consumers.

Despite being a seemingly odd addition for Daimler, the world’s largest producer of luxury vehicles, Smart performs an important role for the manufacturer. As part of the Mercedes-Benz Cars division, the tiny ForTwo and ForFour models help Daimler hit its fleet-wide emissions targets by offsetting the impact of vehicles like high-end Mercedes sports cars.

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