smart times is the world’s biggest meet-up for smart enthusiasts. This August, more fans than ever assembled in Hamburg. smart magazine got to join the fun.

The cooling evening breeze brings welcome relief from the summery temperatures. Growing groups and crowds assemble in front of the central stage. Bright lights illuminate their faces; joyful excitement fills the large square.

Normally, this place is the domain of trucks and forklifts packing the city’s fruit and vegetables. Thanks to its central location near Hamburg’s harbor – and its international appeal – the Grossmarkt (wholesale market) exudes a sense of exotic flair and faraway destinations.

smart times 2016 opening in Hamburg
smart times 2016 impresses with a well-rounded stage program.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

This weekend has also brought together a colorful mix from around the world. From smart fortwo and smart forfour to smart roadster – the huge square is flanked by countless smart models from any period or stage of the brand’s recent history.

Even driving to the location leaves no doubt that a smart invasion has descended on Hamburg: The Northern German metropolis’ streets are thronging with models from Italy, Portugal, Denmark, among many countries – hundreds of flags can be spotted and thousands of people stand out wearing the bright shirts of their own smart clubs.

smart club at smart times 2016
Sunshine on everybody’s mind.
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Happy audience cheering at smart times
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Overview of the smart models
Photo: Daimler AG
crowd at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis

A huge international community

“This huge international community is why we’re here,” says Andrea Berti. The Italian traveled to Hamburg with a large group of friends and members of his NeuroSmartClub Italia. “It’s simply amazing to see so many familiar faces from around the world.”

The Italians have made camp in the Club Area. They have made the journey with a total of 20 smart. “Our club thrives on friendship and shared experiences,” states Andrea. And on adrenaline-fueled activities: Every March, they take their cars for a spin on the famous Formula 1 race track in Monza.

Last year, his club even won first place among the world’s best smart clubs – with their performance of the Italian classic “Volare.” This year, the 35 members of Andrea’s team have come up with a different spin – they plan to perform a dance to one of their own songs on stage.

Meanwhile, the main stage is starting to get busy: Lighting and music herald the night’s grand climax. Accompanied by reverberating Daft Punk basslines, an orange smart BRABUS fortwo cabrio takes the stage.

“You’re the ones motivating our work”

The fans are cheering when a beaming Dr. Annette Winkler steps out of the smart. smart times is a key event in the CEO’s annual calendar. “It’s simply incredible what smart clubs around the world are doing for the brand,” Winkler explains and highlights the sheer enthusiasm of international smart fans.

Annette Winkler arrives in a smart cabrio at the smart times
Dr. Annette Winkler welcomes the smart times guests.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

“You’re the ones motivating our work,” she adds. smart times is the perfect place to experience the incredible power and infectious joy of the assembled fan base. Throughout the day, Annette Winkler delves into the crowd, shaking hands, swapping stories and anecdotes, and meeting the people behind the many modified models on display at the event.

smart manager Dr. Annette Winkler gives a speech
“You’re the ones motivating our work.”
Photo: Gulliver Theis

smart “Woody“ from the Netherlands

Here, the ideas are as diverse and fun as the entire audience. Ricardo Vierwind, for example, drove his wood-look smart fortwo all the way from the Netherlands. He clarifies that “most people assume it’s just printed foil, so it’s fun to watch their jaws hit the floor when they realize that all of the wood grain is actually painted by hand.”

Viewind has had his smart since 2009 and decided to mod his car in 2013, inspired by the famous “woodies”, wood-paneled US station wagons. He’s also added real-wood cladding to the interior. “My smart used to be all black and white – the perfect canvas,” adds Viewind. “As I’m a gardener, I have a personal relationship with my chosen material.”

Yet his passion for smart goes a lot further back. “Even as a little kid, I was constantly drawing small, rounded cars – back when such models didn’t actually exist,” he remembers. “So, when I saw my very first smart aged 15, I knew I had to have such a car.”

smart “forpapa“ wins the “craziest smart” contest

Many ways lead to smart times. It’s hard not to be infected by the shared enthusiasm. That’s something Hermann Fürst knows from personal experience, since he was one of the first to attend this gathering. Back in 2000, he founded the smart club österreich and watched the show expand and grow, year-on-year.

He welcomes us with a happy wave from the open roof of his smart. “It’s a contagion – the smart contagion. The number of people simply keeps growing. We started out with 250 guests and now we welcome more than 3,000 drivers,” Fürst reveals, pointing at the assembled crowd. “It’s great fun to be part of it all.”

This year’s surprise sensation: a smart converted into a bona fide white and gold “Popemobile,” replete with a special glass cupola resembling the pope’s actual vehicle. Whether atheist or true believer – the mod convinced even hardcore sceptics and won owner Sascha Gerstmayer first place in the “craziest smart” contest.

a smart looking like a popemobile
The smart „forpapa” attracts a lot of attention.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

smart parade and guest stint of the beach volleyball Olympic winners

Another highlight this year was the surprise appearance of beach volleyball duo Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst. Just back from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the two gold medalists rolled up on stage – naturally, in a gold smart fortwo cabrio.

 Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst at the smart times
Proudly presenting their gold medals: Kira Walkenhorst and Laura Ludwig.
Photo: Gulliver Theis
smart fortwo gold
All that glitters is gold – true in some cases.
Photo: Daimler AG

“smart always comes up with an interesting program,” thinks Fürst. “But my favorite is probably the parade: Driving through town with 1,000+ smart models is always amazing.”

The parade marks the culmination of each year’s smart times celebrations. In Hamburg, a sheer endless procession of (count them!) 1,635 smart took over Hamburg’s Speicherstadt and Hafencity districts.

smart parade in Hamburg
The parade through the city attracts a large audience.
Photo: Daimler AG

It was a truly stunning experience for both drivers and their passengers, but also for all the countless passers-by stopping to marvel at the colorful spectacle.

And there was plenty to see for all involved: Beyond a rainbow of different smart models, a few true rarities stood out: among them a smart crossblade constructed without roof, windscreen, or even doors. The parade was led by the CEO herself in a sleek smart BRABUS fortwo cabrio.

smart volleyball at smart times 2016.
Beach party feeling at smart times.
Photo: Gulliver Theis
smart parcour at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Drum performance on stage at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Performance at smart times 2016.
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Soundsystem in the boot of a smart
Photo: Gulliver Theis

A great year for smart

On stage, Dr. Annette Winkler also honored the commitment, enthusiasm, and achievement of the attending departments, located in Böblingen and Hambach. After all, it’s a great year for smart: The new smart BRABUS has arrived, the new smart electric drive is about hit the market, and the roll-out of the new smart services and smart “ready to drop” has already kicked off. The latter innovation allows users to have online orders delivered straight to the trunk of their own smart overnight – a groundbreaking service. “You can be pioneers!” Winkler tells the smart drivers in the audience, since smart is about to turn their vehicles into even more versatile everyday assistants.

“LOL” license plate from Denmark

For Denmark’s Linda Hougaard Bentsen, life already centers around her smart. “I am the chairwoman of the smart klub danmark and this year we’ve enjoyed more support than ever – well, I guess the drive was a bit shorter than usual, too!”

She actually drove all the way down from Aalborg in the north of Denmark, taking her smart BRABUS with its unusual “LOL” license plate. “It’s my pride and joy and one of only two smart BRABUS models in all of Denmark,” Linda admits.

“This year, I’m especially looking forward to all the creative mods of the current smart model,” she adds. “By now, the 453 is a year old and people have had time for some amazing modifications.”

smart with LOL license plate from Denmark.
A cheerful license plate from Denmark.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

Kay Neidhardt, on the other hand, didn’t feel like changing anything about his smart fortwo edition greystyle. “It was probably one of the most stunning special editions: yellow dashboard elements, yellow mirrors, yellow inserts on the seats – I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Born and bred in Hamburg, Neidhardt works for a Daimler AG subsidiary and has come here with smartastic mi – a special smart fan club. “In 2014, employees of Daimler and its subsidiaries decided to found their own club. We meet occasionally and mostly near Stuttgart for Christmas parties, spontaneous visits to the zoo, or just a shared meal.”

One of the club’s special rules: “Each member has a code name and mine is ‘The Rock’ – since my smart has a slate gray finish.”

smart times visitor Kay Neihardt in his smart fortwo cabrio
Kay Neidhardt in the custom model smart fortwo cabrio edition greystyle.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

Further afield

“smart lets you try things and express your own personality,“ adds Gil Peled of the smart Club Israel. “The smart concept is getting increasingly relevant. After all, smart places great emphasis on sustainability and solving urban challenges.”

To attend smart times, Gil is probably among those who have travelled furthest. In Jerusalem, he works as an architect. “Back home, I am a pioneer when it comes to sustainable and green renovation measures,” he reveals. “So, smart perfectly complements my views and world.”

Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring his own smart. “But I met a lovely smart fan from Spain whom I’ll join on stage for the Welcome of the nations,” he enthuses.

During this highlight event, representatives of all 42 attending countries drive on stage with their smart – it’s still one of the most popular festival highlights. “To me, this meeting of different nationalities epitomizes the smart times spirit,” Gil continues. “smart brings people together, through their shared passion.”

smart fans celebrating in Hamburg
An international community.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

smart times wedding

Marta Rogaczewska can certainly confirm the truth of this statement. The young Polish woman has arrived together with her husband. “After all, smart times is the backdrop of our relationship,” she laughs.

“We got engaged at smart times 2009 in Zell am See. In 2011, we got married in Riccione – they even invited us on stage. At the 2012 smart times in Belgium, I was pregnant – and 2013 in Switzerland our daughter joined us for the very first time.“

Sounds like smart has won a firm place in the Rogaczewskas’ family album. This year, it’s just a couple’s trip, however, says Marta. “Our second honeymoon,“ she tells with a smile. “We can’t wait to find out where we’re going next year – we’re hoping for Spain.”

smart Fans kissing
The way to a man’s heart is through his smart.
Photo: Gulliver Theis

smart times 2017 in the Spanish city of Salou

smart times 2017 in Salou

Well, Marta’s guess turned out to be prescient. Cheered by the Spanish delegation, equipped with plenty of flags and pennants, the organizers announced the site of next year’s smart times: In 2017, the smart community can look forward to Spanish convertible weather and a welcome reunion in Salou on the Costa Dorada.

Slowly, the night draws to a close – at least on the Grossmarkt site. Hamburg’s lights continue to glitter and gleam, inviting participants to continue their city safari through the nocturnal streets – accompanied by plenty of old and new friends.

smart with logo that says i love smart
Hands on: Visitors can use finger paint to write and draw on a smart.
Photo: Gulliver Theis
smart fortwo at smart times
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Transformed smart model at smart times
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Disco smart at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis
smart robot at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis
Red smart forfour models at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis
smart fortwo in green at smart times 2016
Photo: Gulliver Theis