Annette Winkler, 58, is leaving her position as head of Smart at Daimler AG. The exit for the 23-year veteran comes after eight years of her management of Smart on September 30, 2018. Daimler did not have an immediate replacement to head the tiny car brand.
Winkler and – struggling Smart – were (are?) part of Daimler’s confusing small car strategy and current rush to electric vehicle production. Smart lost billions of Euros for Daimler. Its only fit appeared to be as a foil against mileage and emissions regulations, allowing the owner of Mercedes Benz to continue to thrive selling gas guzzlers.
While Smart was arguably the first serious foray – back in 1998 when it appeared at the Frankfurt Motor Show – into what is now claimed by automakers to be a viable segment – urban vehicles. Attempts to expand the Smart line with a roadster and a larger compact car failed. “One of the key responsibilities of every executive is to pass on leading positions to the next generation at the right time,” claimed Winkler. “And that time has now come – with the clear focus of Smart as a fully electric urban-mobility brand and with the decision to develop the Hambach facility into a plant for fully electric vehicles within the Mercedes-Benz production network.
Winkler will continue to be associated with the Daimler Group. She will be appointed to the supervisory board of Mercedes-Benz South Africa effective September 1, 2019, where she will continue to contribute “her enthusiasm and great experience with employees and dealerships.”
“As a true entrepreneurial personality, she has led Smart to new successes and systematically transformed it into an electric mobility brand,” said Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler. “Under Annette Winkler’s leadership, the smart plant in Hambach has continually improved its competitiveness and is extremely well positioned for the future.”