Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Smart car says owner loyalty behind sales optimism

MADRID, Jan 31 (Reuters) - DaimlerChrysler sounded an optimistic note on sales and profits for its new Smart brand car as journalists began test driving the re-designed two-seater for the first time. Smart head Ulrich Walker said he would not be draw[n] on sales predictions, but he was confident existing owners' loyalty would provide a key base for the new ForTwo as the division aims finally to break even this year."In a second generation we have these customers in the bank, and we will also get new customers in the future. This is the basis of our volume planning," Walker told journalists on the sidelines of the car's media test drive late on Tuesday. The Smart ForTwo car was a totally new concept when it was launched in 1998 but still sold 770,000, Walker pointed out. The division has lost money since the brand's launch, but after the new model goes on sale in April, Walker expects the minicar business to be in profit by the beginning of 2008. "We will reach break even on operating profit by the end of 2007," Walker said, reiterating previous comments. DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche has made profitability at Smart one of his top priorities, slashing material costs for the new ForTwo by 12 percent and the time to build it by a fifth.

Read full more here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spotted in Guelph

This photo just in from my Guelph, Ontario correspondent. The car belongs to the City of Guelph and is part of the "SMART Car Project"

"The utility of the SMART Car is being reviewed for Corporate use. Utilization and user surveys are underway. Evaluation will be complete by mid-2007."

Source: Strategic Plan Report: Quarterly Report to Council, October 2006

Sunday, January 28, 2007

'Playboy prince' testifies at £1.4m fraud trial

David Charter in Brussels
Belgium’s playboy Prince made legal history yesterday when he became the country’s first royalty to testify at a fraud trial that has stirred debate about the generous state allowances enjoyed by the monarchy.
Prince Laurent, 43, the youngest son of King Albert II, drove up in his Smart car and promised to “tell the truth, nothing but the truth” in court. The appearance of the prince, who married the British-born Claire Coombs in 2003, was made possible by the King last week with a royal decree removing his immunity.

Read full story here.

Queston: Is this good or bad news for the smart car driver's image?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Councils back CO2 parking permit scheme

Drivers of four-wheel-drives could pay up to four times more than they do now

By Peter Law
TWO north London boroughs are set to link the cost of residents' parking permits to car CO2 emissions. In a UK first, drivers of gas guzzling four-wheel-drives would have to pay far more to park outside their homes.The changes were given the go-ahead by Camden and Haringey councils last night. Richmond, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth councils, all in London, have said they plan to introduce similar schemes.
In Camden, drivers of electric cars will be given parking permits free of charge and will also be given free short-stay parking in pay and display bays.
The council also announced a trial of a number on-street re-charging points for electric cars.
In Haringey, the sliding scale will halve the cost of permits for owners of energy efficient cars, while owners of high-polluting vehicles will pay almost four times as they do currently.
A permit for a Smart car will be just £15, while the owner of a Ford Mondeo or Range Rover will pay £90. The cost of a second permit will also rise substantially in a bid to deter residents from buying multiple cars. Haringey will now begin a 21-day consultation with residents, with a view to implement the scheme in April.

Read full story here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Central Penn president goes micro on the road

Last updated: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 10:16 AM EST

That man in the funny-looking car buzzing around the Central Pennsylvania College campus these days is on a mission. Todd Milano, president of the college in Summerdale, traded in his conventional sedan for a retro-fitted European “smart car” decorated images of the campus and the phrase: “Sometimes smaller is smarter.” His mission? To emphasize the value of a small college atmosphere and a personalized education that’s the philosophy of Central Penn. The vehicle will be on display today through Sunday at the annual Pennsylvania Auto and Boat Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.“I want our community to be reminded of Central Penn’s long-standing mission to serve as a bridge to success for students of all ages and to assist local businesses with career-ready graduates,” said Milano. View source here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Smart Forfour

The original two-seater Smart car was a motoring milestone. Its tiny dimensions and radical styling made it one of the most recognisable cars on the road. But as DaimlerChrysler, the owner of the brand, soon found out, innovation in itself does not make you money. With the financial losses mounting at Smart, the manufacturer hoped the introduction of a larger, more practical four-seater model would put the accounts back into the black.
Introduced to the UK in September 2004, the Smart Forfour was 50% longer than its little brother, giving it not only rear seats but also a reasonable boot. That extra length also transformed the car’s road manners: gone was the choppy ride caused by the ultra-short wheelbase, replaced by the sense that you are driving a proper grown-up car.
While there are some visual similarities with the Fortwo, the Forfour shares more than half of its components with the Mitsubishi Colt. It also comes with a much more traditional lineup of engines. Out went the 600cc turbocharged unit found in the Fourtwo and in came a range of three petrol and two diesel engines.

Read full story here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Smart Car to Arrive in 2008, But Safety Concerns Linger

Talk to a Smart rep about the ForTwo minicar, and the discussion invariably turns to safety. That’s because the public’s reaction to the ForTwo seems to hinge largely on what people think of its crashworthiness. That ought to be expected when you market a car half the length of a New York taxicab.
The ForTwo is scheduled to hit [US] showrooms in early 2008. Smart representatives are quick to point out its bevy of safety features, as well as its projected crash-test results. Even so, some experts remain skeptical, warning that drivers of small cars like the ForTwo have an increased risk of personal injury if they get hit by a larger vehicle.
The ForTwo’s appearance at the Detroit auto show carries unfortunate timing. Last month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tested several small cars, including the Chevy Aveo and Honda Fit, and five of the eight models — including some with advanced safety features like side curtain airbags — fared poorly.
Read full article here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Daimler's Smart Expects Fortwo Sales To Rise 07-President

By Christoph Rauwald Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
DETROIT -(Dow Jones)- The president and chief executive of DaimlerChrysler AG's (DCX) Smart minicar division Ulrich Walker said Sunday sales for the Fortwo model are expected to rise in 2007.
'We're expecting the new model to push sales this year above last year's level,' Walker told Dow Jones Newswires at the North American International Auto Show.
The Smart division saw deliveries fall 22% on the year to 112,100 vehicles in full-year 2006. The Fortwo accounted for around 70% of the unit's sales last year as sales of the Roadtser and Fortwo model phased out. Walker said the internal targets have been 'more than fulfilled' ahead of the upcoming model changeover, without elaborating further.
Smart is set to launch a new version of its tiny two-seater model in April 2007, and plans a U.S. debut for the brand in the first quarter 2008. For the entry in the U.S. market, DaimlerChrysler signed a General Distributor Agreement, or GDA, with UnitedAuto Group Inc. (UAG) last year. According to previous company statement, DaimlerChrysler estimates the 'market potential' to be around 20,000 sales per year.
'I think there a lot of people out there who are looking for low costs of ownership and are concerned about traffic congestion,' UnitedAuto Group's CEO Roger Penske told Dow Jones Newswires in Detroit. He declined to give a specific sales target for the Smart brand in the U.S.
'Smart sold around 4,000 cars in Canada in its first year, the U.S. auto market is about eleven times as big as the Canadian, and if we get around 50% of this sales level here, this would be a success,' he said. Penske said he received 1,100 applications from interested dealers for a possible franchises. From these applicants, UAG will choose between 50 and 60 dealers for the brand's launch in the U.S., Penske said, adding that the company will go on a roadshow to Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit and New York over the next 30 days.
Penske reiterated that the Smart Fortwo will go on sale for 'a price below $15,000'.
Company Web site:

View source.

Friday, January 05, 2007

AC Ace Returns Via Smart

New roadster using fortwo running gear.
by Richard Yarrow
Smart is coming to the U.S. in 2008, but only with the fortwo city car. But another of the DaimlerChrysler-owned firm's models could arrive the year after - wearing the badge of legendary British brand AC.
DC axed production of the smart roadster and roadster coupé at the end of last year as part of its cost-cutting. But bosses are on the verge of selling the entire venture including tooling to a group of enthusiasts based in the U.K. Called Project Kimber, it has some heavyweight support including Gordon Murray, the brains behind the outrageous McLaren F1 supercar. It's close to obtaining financial backing from sources in Europe and Hong Kong, and the memorandum of understanding it signed with DaimlerChrysler last February is about to become a contractual reality.
The first three official images of the two-seater - to be called the AC Ace - have also been revealed. Production is expected to begin in the middle of next year, with prices from around $23,000 to $37,000. Both right-hand-drive and left-hand-drive models will be available, and a U.S. launch is slated for 2009.
Read full article here.

DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes sales rose 3 percent to a record in 2006

The Associated Press - Published: January 5, 2007
STUTTGART, Germany: DaimlerChrysler AG said Friday that unit sales at its Mercedes division rose 3 percent to a record in 2006, powered by a strong rise in demand for its luxury Mercedes-Benz models.
The Mercedes Car Group, which also includes the Bentley and Smart brands, sold 1.26 million cars, up from 1.22 in 2005. Daimler-Benz alone delivered 1.15 million vehicles last year, up 7 percent from 1.08 million last year.
In contrast, sales of the compact Smart car dropped nearly 22 percent to 112,100 last year. DaimlerChrysler is restructuring the brand, and renewing its innovative two-seat fortwo model.
Read full press release here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

SMART 250 SWB Speciale

Now there's short wheelbase and then there's short wheelbase. The Smart ForTwo is about as short as they come. The original Ferrari 250 GT came in long-wheelbase "Lusso" and short wheelbase versions, the latter more of a competition special and a collectors' favorite. To honor (or mimic, depending on your point of view) the iconic gran turismo, 250 SWB Ltd., a leading Ferrari specialist in the UK, prepared this unique 2004 Smart 250 SWB Speciale.
Under the hood, the engine was remapped, outfitted with a larger turbocharger, new dump valve, bigger injectors and the Brabus exhaust system. The wheel and tire package was upgraded and the suspension has been lowered. Inside the interior was swathed in Italian leather with carbon fiber and aluminum trim. It also comes fitted with a Sony CD stereo, sat-nav and phone kit. Outside you'll also notice the red and silver paintjob, Ferrari badging, halogen lights and aerodynamic body kit that sets it apart from an ordinary Smart.
With all the modifications, the owner describes the car as feeling incredibly fast – "delirious entertainment" – with a 0-60 time below eight seconds, a 115 mph top end and average fuel economy over 50 mpg. The car recently sold for a little over ten thousand pounds.
Modern tribute to the original or shameful exploitation of the name? We'd tend to lean closer to the latter, but it's entertaining nonetheless.
[Source: 250 SWB LTD]