Daimler is nearing a deal to sell a 50 % stake in Smart to China’s Geely, according to the Financial Times.
The Chinese company already owns Volvo and Lotus in Europe. According to the report, the sale of the stake in Smart division will be confirmed before the Shanghai Auto Show in April.
The third generation Smart fortwo and Smart forfour were developed in a joint venture with Renault, which saw the latest Twingo share the same platform with the forfour.
But Renault recently announced that it was pulling the Twingo from the UK market after poor sales. Smart has never been a commercial success for Daimler so offloading 50% of the brand to Geely makes sense.
Despite low sale of around 130,000 a year, the cars are well equipped and cleverly engineered. For such small cars they are surprisingly comfortable and make perfect sense in crowded cities.
At the recent Geneva Motor Show Daimler showed the Smart forease+ concept (pictured above) which suggested it has faith in the brand.
The smart forease+ is based on the smart EQ fortwo cabrio series production model. Daimler also said that by 2020 the Smart brand will be using electric drives only, making it the first car brand to completely change combustion engines to electric drives.
It may be that Smart survives to produce only two-door electric versions in the future, which have more appeal as clean city runabouts to a youthful demographic.
Daimler and Geely earlier announced a joint-business to offer ride-hailing services in China.