FRANKURT -- The CEO of Daimler's Smart business, Annette Winkler, is stepping down after eight years as head of the automaker's microcar brand.
Winkler, 58, will leave the position on Sept. 30, Daimler said in a statement on Tuesday. Daimler will announce a new Smart boss at a later date, the company said.
"Annette Winkler has had a successful and lasting impact on Mercedes-Benz and especially on Smart, over a period of many years," Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in the statement.
Daimler is turning Smart, which sells the ForTwo globally and the ForFour in Europe, into an electric urban-mobility brand. By 2020, Smart will sell only full-electric cars in Europe and North America, with other regions to follow later, the automaker said last September.
Earlier this month Daimler said it will invest 500 million euros ($589 million) into its Smart plant in Hambach, France, for production of a compact electric car for Mercedes-Benz.
Smart has often been compared to BMW Group’s Mini brand of premium small cars but even in its best years it managed to sell less than half its competitor's annual volumes. Mini sold a record 372,000 cars last year, while deliveries of Smart cars fell 6.5 percent to 135,000.
Smart was launched in 1998 as a joint development together with Swatch inventor Nicolas Hayek. It has found only a small following with Italy and Germany its best markets.
After losing money for nearly two decades, the brand underwent a radical restructuring that cost Daimler about 2 billion euros in 2005 and the following year. Unprofitable models were scrapped and plans for an SUV dropped.
The latest Smart ForTwo and ForFour models were co-engineered with the Renault Twingo minicar to reduce development costs.
Winkler, a German, has worked for Daimler for 23 years. She will be appointed to the supervisory board of Mercedes-Benz South Africa effective Sept. 1, 2019.
Winkler is scheduled to speak June 6 at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Turin.