We hadn’t even had a chance to recover from the sad news of Spen King’s - aka the “Father of the Range Rover” - death when we found out that Nicholas Hayek, the man responsible for giving the auto world the Smart Car, has also passed away due to heart failure. He was 82 years old.
While most of us autophiles know him for his Smart Car, the rest of the world knows Hayek as the savvy businessman who built an affordable line of watches that has since come to be universally known as Swatch.
With an eye towards building products that the everyday man can afford, Hayek took the successful template he was using with Swatch to build a car that fits into the Swatch action plan: affordable, customizable, and most of all, customer-friendly.
With the help of Mercedes-Benz, who took the reigns from Volkswagen as a partner in the Smart Car program, Hayek was able to launch his pride and joy, and while the car hasn’t exactly been as successful – in terms of sales - as a lot of people initially thought, nobody can say that the Smart Car hasn’t made an impact on the world. This tremendous impact is evidenced by the immense popularity it now enjoys in the pop culture lexicon. And all of that came from a man who was only a relative neophyte in the industry and whose time there was unceremoniously cut short.
We can sit and debate the merits and demerits of the Smart Car, but one thing’s for sure, Nicholas Hayek, in his short time as an automaker, has made a lasting impact on the industry in more ways than one.
Rest in Peace, sir.