Smart has launched a competition to allow enthusiasts to style their own cars online in a new attempt to appeal to its urban, stylish fan base.

From January 6, budding smart car designers will be able to log on and customize their own vehicle, before submitting the finished product to smart for the chance of winning a €5,000 ($7215) prize. Winning entries will be selected by a panel of Mercedes-Benz and smart designers, with the company promising that users will "be surprised" by the jury. The competition runs until February 23 and the winner will be announced February 26.

The online design configurator will offer a multitude of colors, paints, patterns and shapes, as well as allowing fans to upload their own designs. Smart intends to build an online social community of smart-lovers through the platform, by allowing designers to rate, evaluate and comment on others' designs.

Bringing together design and social networking is an obvious step for the German brand, which closely identifies itself with art - in 2002 a smart fortwo was added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York as a "contemporary design classic." Smart will be hoping to again tap its unique niche base of connected urban dwellers with the competition - 45 percent of smart fortwo customers are under the age of 45. In July 2009, the brand launched "Destination Smart," a global social networking site for drivers and enthusiasts.

"In our daily contact with our customers we keep experiencing how passionate they are about smart," said Marc Langenbrinck, managing director of smart brand. "The design contest offers all smart drivers and fans a platform to lend expression to their creativity."

Smart is not the first manufacturer to offer an online design configurator, although previous successful attempts have been sales previews from high-end marques. Ferrari provides a site for customers to preview the color, trim and wheels of the California model, whilst Aston Martin's website allows potential buyers to build a customized model of their choosing before sending the details to a dealership for a consultation.

Search for used cars