DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - The idea is that you might want to use a black car tonight to go to the opera, and a yellow car tomorrow to go to the beach. The so-called ``Swatch'' car might let you do that, according to Christian Hauck of Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF AG.
Hauck, who leads technology planning and development for BASF Plastics units, said in an interview Oct. 8 at his firm's K'95 booth in Dusseldorf that Swatch will be produced and marketed by MicroConcept Car AG.
MicroConcept is a joint venture between automaker Daimler-Benz AG of Stuttgart, Germany, and Schweizerische Gesell-schaft fur Mikroelektronik und Uhrenindustrie AG - also called SMH - of Biel, Switzerland.
While it will be sold under the official model name of ``Smart,'' the car gained the Swatch nickname because SMH - which conceived the car - also conceived, developed and produced the popular Swatch watches.
Whether the wearer requires yellow, black or blue bands, formal or casual, the Swatch can be changed to match the outfit.
In the same way, the ultimate idea is for a car to have exterior body panels that can be made atlow cost and that can be changed - almost at the owner's whim.
MicroConcept Car wants to develop thermoformable body panels that would be painted off the assembly line, and that would cost $500 a set. With such inexpensive panels, a car with switchable body panels and colors could be possible.
However, Hauck concedes that such a low-cost development is far out of reach today. Also, further work must be done on thermoforming, so the car at the outset will have injection molded body panels.
The first Smart prototype was built in June, and the car will be introduced at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.
As it is planned now, the car will be offered with three engine alternatives to allow the buyer to choose diesel, electric or a hybrid internal combustion/electric drive train.
Production for the car is set for 1997, with a model year launch in 1998. The car will be made in Hambach, France.
Dynamit Nobel Kunstoff GmbH, of Weissenburg, Germany, is supplying the complete plastic body panels for the car.
Dynamit Nobel is investing nearly $40 million to build an injection molding plant in Hambach, France, to produce the body panels.