Smart Fortwo inventor Hayek dies

Posted on Friday, 2 July 2010 , 06:07:05 byAlina

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Smart Fortwo inventor Hayek dies

Nicolas Hayek, Swatch founder and Smart Fortwo inventor died unexpectedly on Monday while at work from heart failure at the age of 82.

Nicolas Hayek, the chairman and founder of Swatch Group, didn't say who would succeed him. Under Swiss rules, the chairman is elected by the company's board of directors.

He was the one who revived the watches industry in Switzerland in the '80s. The cheaper plastic watches developed by the newly founded company, Societe de Microelectronique et d'Horlogerie, or SMH, in which Hayek took a stake, helped the industry to compete with the increase in cheap Japanese exports.

Nicolas Hayek also created an automobile brand that presented a new concept in the public's eyes. He had the idea of creating Smart Fortwo in the '90s. The whole notion for a small, plastic-bodied city car with interchangeable panels was said to be his idea, and his initial sketches for the vehicle in the 1980s described a two-seater with hybrid power.

The Smart city car would be shown in concept form in 1994, but it would not hit the streets until 1998--and wouldn't make its way to the U.S. market until 2008.

In the 1950's he run a consulting company and got in financial trouble in the summer of 1957 after three clients canceled contracts. To survive and to ensure credit he had to pawn the family fortune.

"That was the first and last time in my life that I asked for a loan from a bank or anyone else," Hayek wrote in the 2005 book "Nicolas G. Hayek: Views of a Full-Blooded Entrepreneur."

Mr. Hayek was born in Lebanon and emigrated age 7 with his family to Switzerland, where he became a Swiss citizen. He studied chemistry, physics, and math at France's Lyon University. He had two children, Nick and Nayla Hayek. Nick currently is board member and chief executive officer of Swatch Group, and his sister sits on the company's board.