Smart Loss-making Smart 'is not doomed'

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3964849.stm
The head of Smart cars has denied speculation that parent company DaimlerChrysler may sell or even close the loss-making subsidiary.
In a leaked letter to Smart employees, Ulrich Walker said that while the firm was still not making money, "the existence of Smart is not at stake".
His comments came after a Daimler senior director said "all alternatives" for Smart were being looked at.
The distinctive city car firm has not made a profit since it started in 1998.
"Giving up the Smart brand or selling our business is not being discussed," said Mr Walker.
"[Chief Executive] Juergen Schrempp and [Mercedes Car Group head] Eckhard Cordes confirmed this to me personally in conversations yesterday."
Persistent losses
A DaimlerChrysler spokesman said the closure or sale of Smart is not under consideration but the group is discussing plans to make the company profitable.
The persistent losses at Smart were a major contributing factor to the quarterly fall in profits at Mercedes, DaimlerChrysler's key German car-making division, of which Smart is a further subsidiary.
Third-quarter operating profits at Mercedes were down 62% year-on-year at 304m euros (211m; $386m), it was announced on Thursday.
DaimylerChrysler chief financial officer Manfred Gentz said Smart had shown a "strong deterioration".
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Smart has never hit any sales targets.
DAS
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Smart could be easily righted. All they need to do is borrow the HEMI from Chrysler and put it into a Smart. That would sell.
If Chrysler can borrow from Mercedes it only seems fair for Smart to borrow from Chrysler.
.

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Yes. It seems even the Brabus edition with 74 hp doesn't accelerate faster than 10 s (12.3 seconds) http://www.thesmart.co.uk/index.html
Actually, even any old Merc engine would do, but I guess they can't fit it in. Or lose the shopping'golf-bag space at the back?
DAS
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greek snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (greek_philosophizer) wrote in message

Yeah... maybe, but Smart would also have to change its name to d.d.d.d....Dumb.
All kidding aside though. I saw a lot of Smart cars in Italy and Germany when I was there a couple of weeks ago and they seem to be very popular in big cities. I would have rented one too but I was traveling long distances.
I even saw a Smart "Fortwo" coupe going at about 120 kph on the highway in Germany. I hope they hang in there because IMO there is a great need for such cars in biig cities. It's very wasteful to drive big cars or SUVs just to go solo to work everyday. Gas mileage and vehicle costs aside, there's increasingly nowhere to park big vehicles. With the Smart you can park sideways in a forward parking area.
I think the government should give Smart drivers a break on vehicle licensing. I wonder if insurance can be lowered too.
Michael
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Not legally. Plus, how do you open doors when other cars are close to you?
IIRC the Smart does attract some lower taxation in the UK but it's trivial.
Yes, it is popular in Rome, Paris and even London, but the overall sales figures are poor, hence rumours of brand 'doom', the Coupe, the Forfour etc.
I have test-driven one, deliberately choosing the lowest-powered version engine, on country roads. The engine worked hard and more power would have been helpful to reduce the effect. Seating position is good and it is a fun drive. But recently I had a Nissan Micra as a loan car and I think it is more practical with little loss of convenience of size. The Smart is much funkier than the Micra, but even as a second car I am not sure I would choose a Smart. If I were commuting to work mainly through city traffic I would like it... In a sense it is a 'specialist' car.
DAS
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Yes, it's definitely only suitable as a city commuter. If you are single or a couple with no children and live in a big city it would make a huge amount of sense. I imagine it's also quite chic for young people while the Micra would be pretty boring. BTW, Italians have no problems parking the ForTwo like a scooter. Where there is space they will park it width-wise. It is particularly practical for big old cities that were not designed for cars.
As for comparing to a Micra, the Smart city mileage seems to better the Micra diesel by 11 mpg (UK) (rated 61.4 mpg UK gallons) though it's 1 second slower to 60 mph.
But the "biggest" difference lie in the car lengths - the Micra is 3.715 m long while the Smart Coupe is only 2.5 m. That's a "huge" difference. I think they are quite different in function - perhaps that's why Italians really like them. Given their penchant for Vespas, Smarts may be the next size up from 2 wheels.
IMO, the Micra is too big to be deemed a direct comparison.
Michael
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snipped-for-privacy@ca.inter.net (Michael Low) haute in die Tasten:

From what I have heard, the BMW C1 motorscooter (with fixed roof and seatbelts - you do not need to wear a helmet) is quite popular in Paris and Rome. The overall sales are not satisfying though, so BMW stopped making the C1 and sold the name to Citroen.
Frank
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As I said, you cannot park a Smart 'at right angle' LEGALLY, at least in the UK. Recently it became an offence to park your car with the wheels outside the marked area of a kerbside space. This space is less than 2.5 m wide. In fact, it's become a problem for a number of cars, certain SUVs in particular. A number of local authorities have taken to fining motorists already. (Must be another revenue-raising excercise.)
Italy/Italians is/are stereotypically known for taking a free-and-easy attitude to the law... (but then, I don't know what the parking space laws there are, even though I have driven there often enough).
In a sense the Smart is incomparable with anything, but I took the Nissan Micra as an example of a small runabout. Ugly yes, but practical. Roomier than a Ford Ka.
If Italians bought triple the number of Smarts it might make the sales figures more interesting to management.
I have actually tried to hire a Smart several times when travelling in Germany. Behind the Avis desk at Frankfurt airport there is a big (but slightly yellowing) poster of a Smart, yet they never have one, even when I book in advance. That's why I walked into a dealership and did a test drive.
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Try sixti.com the next time you come to Germany. They are the low budget brand of Sixt. And they have smarts in geat numbers.
Somen months ago smart had a promotion campaign running, where they offered 25 Euros to everyone who was willing to test-drive a smart (model up to your choice) and fill out a questionaire afterwards. I took a forfour with 95 HP gas engine and 6 speed tiptronic gearbox. The car was okay, but I missed the true smart feeling. Money appeared on my bank account one week later;-)
Frank
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Thanks for the tip, Frank.
Mostly I book through my travel agent and the Sixt UK arm apparently is not or was not very efficient so my travel agent refuses to deal with them...in any case I tend to favour Avis.
However, I might make an exception and book directly with Sixt/sixti if an opportunity comes up AND I don't plan to drive very many kms.
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I looked the Sixti car hire website up and found some extraordinary pricing. I used the Smart option as the example.
1) Comparison London Stansted and Frankfurt airports. Amazingly, Stansted much cheaper.
2) Pricing policy. I used the default setting 5 Nov noon to 6 Nov noon, i.e. 24 h. This counts as TWO days. The only way to get the one-day price is to rent within the same calendar day only. The big ones don't do that.
3) Convenience. As always, you pay with inconvenience. In London no rental stations at Heathrow or Gatwick, in Frankfurt none at Terminal 1.
And, of course, there is a daily mileage limit. Mind you, I would not want to drive further than that... :-)
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snipped-for-privacy@ca.inter.net (Michael Low) haute in die Tasten:

In Germany you have three main cost factors when running a car: car tax (it depends on the engine displacement, the air pollution class and the type of engine - diesel, gasoline or lpg), car insurance (depends on the number of damages caused by this type of car, on the repair cost for damages at this car, the area where you live and your driving experience) and fuel tax (up to 75% of the fuel price).
Car tax of every smart is quite low, because it has a small engine (0,8 litre) and a good air pollution class. In 2000 there was a law which lifted away the car tax from all cars which burned less than 3 litres of fuel per 100 km (this means 78 mpg!). AFAIK there are exactly three cars, which meet this 3 ltre criteria: VW Lupo 3L, Audi A2 1,4 TDI 3L and smart CDI. All these cars have a turbodiesel direct injection engine. In Germany the car tax on Diesel engines is substantial higher than on gasoline engines (to compensate the fact that fuel tax on diesel fuel is lower than on gasoline). AFAIK this 3 litre tax lift runs out in 2005. Usually a smart CDI costs 123 Euros car tax per year. A Mercedes 240 D (no pollution class at all) costs 902 Euros - oops!
Insurance for all smart fortwos is quite low, but cabrios and CDIs are a little bit more expensive, I suppose because they get stolen more often and the cabrio top is a touchy insurance issue. Nevertheless a smart CDI cabrio costs half the insurance of a - let's say - '92 BMW 325i convertible.
As a matter of fact the smart fortwo CDI is one of the cars with the lowest operating costs available on the german market. But it is quite expensive: A smart CDI with A/C, alloy wheels and some options can easily reach 15.000 euros, this is the price for a standard VW Golf with 75 HP gasoline engine.
Frank
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To clarify, of course you mean your W123 240D from way-back-when...
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Is there a newer 240D available?
Actually, I quoted the tax figures to show the dimensions a little bit. If I tell you that a smart costs half the car tax of a Golf 1.6, then this info is quite irrelevant if you do not know how much that is. BTW: high Diesel car taxation led to strange things in Germany when people tried to register big Diesel SUVs as commercial trucks. The reason for this: Passenger cars are taxed after the engine displacement and other engine-related parameters, which lets you pay 963 Euros per year for a new VW Touareg V10 TDI, while a commercial truck with less than 3,5 tons costs some 150 Euros or so. And the high taxes on old Diesels without proper air pollution class make these cars almost un-sellable.
Frank
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Not everybody might know that "Mercedes 240D" means W123.
Regarding tax classification, they can cite the US, which calls SUVs "trucks"...
With the best will in the world and looking at the vehicle with binoculars, I cannot call even a Landcruiser a "truck". An Actros is a truck.
:-) DAS
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Thanks for your comments, Frank.
I live in Nova Scotia, Canada and commute 75 km per day, usually on a secondary highway (80 km/hr... 50 mph) or on our regular highway at 120 km/hr. It currently costs me about $30 a week in diesel to drive my '84 300SD, about $36 for my '95 Saturn SW1 or over $60 if I drove our '97 GMC Safari Van.
I took a smart fortwo out for a test drive a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised by the build quality, the useable space behind the seats and the performance of the vehicle. So much so, that I'm seriously thinking of replacing my Saturn with one. I drove at 110 km -- it felt fine and had some revs left. Handling was fine. Ride was pretty firm, but not jarring. Pickup was adequate to merge with traffic.
I figure it'd cost me about $12 a week in diesel (a savings of $24/week over the Saturn or about $1000/year). You're right about the price, too: a "passion" model with heated leather seats, sunroof and a few other options will run about $23,000 Canadian -- about the same as an inexpensive mid-sized domestic car.
Mercedes originally imported 800 vehicles and they were all pre-sold. According to my dealer, it's a 6 month waiting list, but at least your vehicle would be built to order...
Tim Delaney
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Tim Delaney) haute in die Tasten:

The euro spec smart fortwo is electronically limited to 135 kph (about 82 mph), and while using a GPS handheld in the car, I found that it runs _exactly_ that speed. If the limiter was gone, I suppose, it would run some 140-145 on the highway. There are several modifications available, which increase the engine power (chip tuning) and take away the speed limiter. These cars run up to 160 kph, although I do not know if that is real fun.
Frank
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(Tim Delaney) haute in die Tasten:

Same in Canada - I didn't max it out, I only went the speed limit. i just wanted to see how it felt at highway speed.
Tim
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(Michael Low) haute in die Tasten:

Yes, I also think 15.000 would a bit high but a CDI with A/C and alloys and leather only seems to run around 12.000 based on the Smart website info. What other options were you considering?
The Golf would be much bigger and cost a lot more fuel-wise. The small size and lower operating costs are pluses. I don't about maintenance though. Diesels may cost more to maintain.
I was speaking to a young German friend about diesels and he says the diesel car tax makes it expensive to buy diesel cars unless you do a good deal of driving in Germany. Sounds like a government tax rip-off to me if there are no pollution issues. He bought a diesel anyway because he has to commute a daily 60 km route.
Michael
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