Daimler and its Chinese partner Geely have teased a new electric SUV for the Smart brand that will go into series production next year.
The SUV, which is expected to debut at the IAA in Munich in September, will mark the brand's shift from being a niche player to competing against mainstream brands in the compact segment.
"We have taken the opportunity to reinvent the brand," Daimler design chief Gorden Wagener said during a presentation to journalists. "The new Smart will be cool, sexy and grown-up instead of cute and playful," he said.
At more than 4000 mm long, the SUV is more than one and a half times as long as the ForTwo and almost as long as the Mercedes-Benz EQA compact electric crossover.
The Smart SUV will offer over the air software updates and advanced driver assistance technology that brings it closer to autonomous driving capability.
Although it is slightly shorter than the EQA, the four-door Smart car will have noticeably more legroom.
"Just like the current Smart models, the first Smart of the new era will offer a better length-to-interior ratio than conventional vehicles," Wagener said.
A joint venture between Daimler and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will build Smart-branded electric cars at a new factory in Xian, China. The plant will have annual capacity of about 150,000 vehicles, the companies said in January 2020.
Geely is responsible for technology, development and production in the joint venture.
The SUV will use Geely's Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) modular electric vehicle platform, which will also underpin cars from Geely-owned Volvo Cars and Lynk & CO.
Geely says the architecture will offer a driving range of up to 700 km (435 miles) and greatly reduced charging times thanks to 800-volt technology.
Smart will not get the full package. "But the current 160-km range [of the Smart EQ ForTwo] will no longer be a benchmark for us," Smart CEO Daniel Lescow said.
Daimler and Geely will start sales of new-generation Smarts built in China next year.
Daimler has sold Smart's factory in Hambach, France, to petrochemicals giant Ineos, which plans to begin production of its first vehicle, the Grenadier SUV, a potential rival to the Land Rover Defender, in July 2022.