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Discussion Starter #1
Daimler Hits Brakes on 2d Flawed Model By John Schmid December 19, 1997

FRANKFURT: Daimler-Benz AG again suspended Thursday the sale to the public of a compact car that flipped over in test drives in what analysts called an embarrassing repeat of the quality troubles that plagued the company on a different model a month ago.

"It is the continuation of a nightmare," said John Lawson, industry analyst at Salomon Smith Barney in London. "It has gone into the second round."

Like the Mercedes-Benz A-class before it, the luxury automaker's Smart car suffers from a tendency to flip over on sharp turns in tests, the company said Thursday.

The admissions about both cars were stunning, observers said, for Europe's most profitable carmaker and particularly for its engineers, who have prided themselves on technically superior Mercedes-Benz sedans.

The company's prompt withdrawal of the Smart car from its production schedule was a radical move meant to avert further damage to its image so soon after the A-class debacle, analysts said.

Today on

Dissent and satire still alive in RussiaIn Eastern Germany, an exodus of young womenAung San Suu Kyi and junta edge toward reconciliation A quality audit of the micro-compact Smart car, built for an 81-percent-held Daimler subsidiary, discovered technical flaws in the two-seater only three months ahead of the March introduction date, Daimler officials said.

Juergen Schrempp, the Daimler chief executive, demanded a six-month delay until October to give engineers time to widen the car's wheel base, shift the vehicle's weight closer to the ground and retool the production line.

The company's unprecedented expansion into the crowded market for inexpensive hatchbacks stumbled in October when the A-class four-seater flipped over in the course of an "elk test," a maneuver meant to simulate an emergency swerve to avoid wildlife.

"Schrempp will not take risks," said one Daimler executive. "He is a no-nonsense manager. He already has seen how quickly such situations can blow up in your face."

The promotional blitz that accompanies new models has been suspended, Daimler officials said.

Mr. Schrempp, 53, once dubbed the cost-cutting "Rambo" of German managers, recently boasted that he personally will be at the wheel of a Smart car to conduct an elk test.

In-house test drivers, however, already have managed to tip over several Smart cars during "extreme driving tests," according to Nicolas Hayek, vice chairman of the Micro Compact Car joint venture between Daimler and Swiss-based Societe Suisse de Microelectronique et d'Horlogerie SA (SMH).

Conceived to foster a stylish sense of cachet with splashy colors, the Smart car also is dubbed the "Swatchmobile" because of its ties to SMH, a company best known for making trendy Swatch wristwatches. Mr. Hayek is chairman of SMH, which holds 19 percent of the joint venture.

"The most important problem with the Smart car is elk test," Mr. Hayek said in an interview. "We have to improve this and we are doing this." Other problems include the need to upgrade some of the 5,000 parts used in the car, Mr. Hayek said.

The enduring crisis over Daimler's compact cars claimed its first career casualties. At a Thursday board meeting, Johann Tomforde was removed from his job as head of the Smart car's development and production, according to a statement issued by the joint venture. No replacement has been named.

Daimler said the A-class delay would cut 1997 operating profit by 100 million Deutsche marks ($56 million) and 1998 results by 200 million DM.

On Thursday, the company said the delays with the Smart car will cost it 300 million DM, a figure that includes reimbursements to dealers.

Daimler, Germany's biggest industrial group, also announced Thursday that its 1997 sales rose more than 13 percent from a year earlier to a record 120 billion DM , the biggest percentage rise this decade.

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Discussion Starter #2
Baby Merc to get Bosch stabilizer Friday November 07 1997

GERMAN electronics group Robert Bosch GmbH will supply the new electronic suspension stabilizing system for the Mercedes A-Class car. Mercedes decided to introduce the system, called the Electronic Programme (ESP), into the A-Class range after the car flipped in a magazine test during a sharp turn.A spokesman for Bosch said the group would have to react quickly and increase capacity to meet the order.

The group also plans to change the types of tyre fitted on A-Class cars.

Meanwhile French President Jacques Chirac and his German counterpart Helmut Kole recently watched as the symbolic ``first'' Smart car, a white, city-friendly bean-like car, drive off the production line, though production actually began in September.

Produced by Micro Compact Car (MCC), a joint venture between SMH and Daimler Benz, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, the Smart is expected to go on sale in parts of Europe next Spring.

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Discussion Starter #3
November 24, 1999: Analysts discount German reports that carmaker looking elsewhere than Peugeot.

NEW YORK (CNNfn) - U.S. auto analysts discounted reports from Europe Wednesday that DaimlerChrysler AG may be looking to Italy's Fiat or Japan's Honda Motor Co. instead of its long-anticipated link with PSA Peugeot.

Daimler officials told analysts at Deutsche Bank as recently as last week that they still are focused on Peugeot and they have no interest in a purchase of Fiat, said Rod Lache, analyst at Deutsche Bank's U.S. investment bank, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown.

"They've been telling us explicitly that they haven't decided on what their small car strategy is going to be," said Lache. "But they said their discussions with Fiat have not been on the basis of a merger, and that PSA is still their preferred partner."

Daimler has made no secret of its desire to expand in the small car market through acquisitions or alliances after its own products in the sector met with muted customer demand.

German press reports this week said Fiat would supply Daimler with a range of components for a new version of the Smart car, with the German-American company taking a stake in Fiat.

Fiat described the reports as "baseless." DaimlerChrysler refused to comment.

"We never comment on any rumors or speculation. Nothing has changed on this position," said DaimlerChrysler spokesman Juergen Wittmann.

Meanwhile, the German business weekly Wirtschafts-Woche reported that DaimlerChrysler co-chairman Juergen Schrempp would prefer to buy Honda, rather than either Fiat or Peugeot. It said the company might even use the Honda motorcycle engine in its diminutive Smart car, and that talks could begin early next year.

But analysts said that there is no reason to believe that Honda would change its long-held stance that it wants to stay independent.

"Financially, their product line is reasonably successful," said David Garrity, analyst at Dresdner, Kleinwort & Benson in New York. "There would be no kind of distress sale as there was with Nissan and Renault. Honda can pick something in their own time and place."

While Honda is looking for a way to enter the European market, DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes dealers are not an effective way to do so, both Garrity and Lache said. Garrity said that German press accounts of these kinds of business deals are notoriously unreliable. "This is very much rumor mongering," he said. Analysts in Europe suggested that the German firm would be weakened by a deal as it struggles to integrate the Daimler and Chrysler organizations."DaimlerChrysler has bitten off more than it can chew. The worst thing it can do now is to take another bite," said Peter Schmidt of consultant Automotive Industry Data.

Daimler had been negotiating with Peugeot to share components for a new small car based on the French company's 206 model. However, Peugeot, which is an exchange-listed company but controlled by a family trust, has balked at selling a stake to Daimler. While sales of Daimler's small A-Class car have picked up after a disappointing start, its Smart car has continued to be dogged by problems and slow sales.Fiat has struggled with falling market share and is keen to develop another revenue stream. Schmidt said a deal with Fiat also could founder on the issue of control. Fiat's owners are unlikely to cede control of the company, while Daimler may want a majority stake to push restructuring at the troubled Italian automaker.

While Fiat's share of the small car market has slid under pressure from rivals Volkswagen (FVOW) and Ford (F), its engineering skills are well regarded. "Fiat has a lot going for it in terms of design, technology and efficiency," said Schmidt.

Shares of DaimlerChrysler closed Wednesday at 70-15/16, down 9/16, on the New York Stock Exchange. In trading in Germany shares fell 1 percent in morning trading after having climbed more than 2 percent Tuesday when reports of a Fiat link first appeared. Fiat shares opened 2 percent higher but slipped back to trade flat. Peugeot stock was 1 percent weaker.

By midday Thursday in Tokyo, Shares in Honda Motor Co. had jumped nearly 6 percent on the amid speculation.

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Discussion Starter #4
October 2, 1998 Dealerships Brace for Crowds As Smart Car Is Introduced


BRUSSELS -- It's the size of an outsized go-cart with a plastic exterior that never rusts or dents. It can be swapped for another color for about the price of an evening dress. Designed for city commuting, it can turn on a dime, goes easy on fuel and barely pollutes.

It's little wonder, then, that Alexis Mannes is bracing for a crowd when the Smart car debuts Friday at his Brussels dealership and at 109 other showrooms across Europe. "I've sold Bristols, Delages, Aston Martins, Lancias and Maseratis, but they all had the same idea," Mr. Mannes says. When he read about the Smart car in the newspaper three years ago, he decided, "Maybe that was something that would change the car business."

That's just what Daimler-Benz AG has in mind for its joint project with Societe Suisse de Microelectronique et d'Horologerie SA, maker of Swatch watches. Nicknamed the "Swatchmobile," the ultralight, ultrafuel-efficient two-seater is being marketed as the ideal European city car, selling for the equivalent of $8,500.

There are no current plans to market the Smart car in the U.S. But the project is being viewed as a laboratory for Daimler and its new partner, Chrysler Corp. Both see the Swatchmobile as an idea factory for automotive technology and industrial cooperation of the future.

"Daimler sees the Smart as a playground to test things," says Peter Soliman, a consultant with Booz-Allen Hamilton in Duesseldorf. "Even if it never makes any money, it has already taught the operation a lot about manufacturing, research and development and distribution that they can carry over to their main business."

Scoffing at Plastic

Some rival auto makers scoff at the idea of plastic doors, hoods and trunks. But the lightweight materials are critical in increasing fuel efficiency, which is important in Europe because auto makers have agreed to reduce their fleets' carbon-dioxide emissions by some 25% by the year 2008. A Smart uses just 4.8 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers -- or roughly 59 miles per gallon -- compared with 6.8 liters for Ford Motor Co.'s Ka and 6.6 liters for a Volkswagen Polo, making it one of Europe's most fuel-efficient.

To make the car dramatically smaller than existing subcompacts, Micro Compact Car, the Daimler-SMH joint venture that makes the Smart, was forced to redesign the basic "three-box" concept of the traditional car, which has a hood, a cockpit and a trunk. Designers put the engine in the back, as in the original VW Beetle. But they shoved the rest of the car's mechanics below the passenger cabin, something that previously had only been done with minivans.

While some auto makers have been farming out parts of their production for years, MCC took the concept a quantum leap further, enlisting 13 suppliers, including Magna International Inc. Dynamit Nobel, Bosch and Andersen Consulting, as partners in the joint venture that actually builds the car.

Smart suppliers don't just make door knobs and headlights. They make entire doors, front ends and cockpits as "modules" to be fitted together. The suppliers install the parts, too, leaving Daimler as little more than a coordinator in a factory where most of the employees are on someone else's payroll. That goes well beyond anything seen today even at Chrysler, an industry leader in outsourcing.

"What's decisive is they gave us the whole development responsibility," says Klaus-Juergen Kurr, head of cockpit systems for Mannesmann VDO AG, which supplies complete dashboard and cockpit kits.

The result: The Smart factory in Hambach, France, is capable of building 900 cars a day with virtually no parts inventory of its own. Because only 25% of the Smart's value is added in final assembly, it takes just 4.5 hours to assemble one, compared with 20 hours for a VW Polo.

Most auto makers in Europe depend on a complicated web of importers, distributors and small, local dealerships to get their cars to the customer. Smarts, by contrast, are to be sold in a relative handful of Smart Centers -- just 110 of them sprinkled around Europe -- geared for high-volume sales. The idea isn't entirely new -- General Motors Corp.'s Saturn has done it in the U.S., and Daewoo Motor Corp. in the United Kingdom -- but this is the first time it has been tried all across Europe. "It's pushing the envelope," says John Hoffecker, leader of AT Kearney's automotive-consulting practice in Detroit.

Smart even offers its customers a special deal that entitles them to steep discounts on cars and trucks at Avis rental outlets all across Europe. They can leave the Smart in the garage and pick up a convertible or station wagon at their destination.

Another Edsel?

Auto history is littered with cars of tomorrow that landed on the scrap heap, including the Edsel, the Tucker and the DeLorean sports car. And for every Smart enthusiast there seems to be a Smart skeptic.

"Too expensive," says Shuhei Toyoda, chief engineer for Toyota Motor Corp.'s new Yaris, another small city car. Ferdinand Piech, chairman of rival Volkswagen AG, suggests that it isn't even new: "We already have a city car," he scoffs, referring to the VW Polo. "And it has four seats."

Still, advance sales for the Smart have been brisk. On a continent where many auto makers feel obliged to offer buyers steep discounts, the Smart is selling at non-negotiable list prices. In fact, MCC, has been struggling to keep up with demand from enthusiastic buyers

Mr. Mannes has sold 60 Smarts even before their debut today. Philippe Weinberg, an electronics engineer, reserved a limited edition Smart. He has already got a Jaguar and a Porsche in his garage, but says he wants the Smart for driving in Brussels, where streets can be narrow and parking spaces rare.

Katrien Roels, a Belgian architect, also bought a limited-edition Smart for 490,500 Belgian francs ($14,200), sight unseen. "Less is more," says Ms. Roels, who plans to sell her beat-up Peugeot 205 after she picks up her Smart from Mr. Mannes this weekend. "We made our calculation and decided it's very cheap for a safe car that doesn't cost much to keep running."

1,144 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
DaimlerChrysler driven round the bend by not-so-smart car Friday, January 29, 1999 from Dispatch Online

HAMBURG -- DaimlerChrysler's innovative Smart minicar is driving its makers to distraction with niggling faults, handling quirks and a costly bill for modification. It was announced this week that the stubby little two-door car will now be recalled and fitted with a revised electronic traction control system called "Trust Plus" to stop it careering off icy roads.

The development could hardly be more embarrassing for the German-US DaimlerChrysler conglomerate whose German half is still licking its wounds after the luckless introduction of another small car, the A-class saloon.

That model was retro-fitted last year with an electronic box of tricks after its failure to cope with a low speed avoidance manoeuvre called the "Elk Test" led to bad publicity across the nation.

Electronics are coming to the aid of the hapless Smart too but the damage to the car's image may have already been done.

The Smart, which does not carry Daimler's famous three-pointed star, has received plenty of publicity in Germany but not always of the kind DaimlerChrysler would like to see.

A photo in Der Spiegel magazine this week shows an up-ended Smart in a pile of snow next to a Swiss highway "sitting on its backside like a little circus elephant".

What may look comical in print is no laughing matter for Daimler subsidiary MCC (Micro Compact Car) which produces the car at a custom-built factory in Hambach just over the border from Germany in France.

No sooner was the Smart ready for the showrooms than its creator, idiosyncratic Swiss watch entrepreneur Nicolas Hayek, sold his stake in MCC -- leaving DaimlerChrysler to go it alone.

When it finally arrived the car, which has only two seats and minimum luggage space, was mauled by the motoring press.

They said it was unrefined and cramped inside.

"It can't even carry a crate of beer properly," one tester lamented.

Owner Frank Kasper of Hamburg is happy with his Smart which draws crowds when parked in the city centre.

"It tends to oversteer a little but it does not feel dangerous," said Kasper who has been driving a Smart for just over two weeks.

More irritating are the traces of surface rust already visible on the suspension.

Although sales have been fairly brisk, with several car hire firms taking sizeable contingents, the Smart fared poorly in comparative tests with conventional compacts from Volkswagen and Ford.

A Nissan Micra and a Mercedes A-class completed the same test satisfactorily.

"It really drives you to despair," Der Spiegel quoted top DaimlerChrysler manager Juergen Hubbert as saying.

The problems are particularly galling for DaimlerChrysler since it risks losing public sympathy gained after the A-class debacle. Back then Daimler, which has often been perceived as arrogant, scored points by admitting its mistakes and doing everything to put them right.

One small consolation for DaimlerChrysler is that the Smart which disgraced itself in Switzerland did so because it was not fitted with the correct winter tyres and not because of a handling fault. -- Sapa-DPA

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Discussion Starter #6
Report of co-produced Smart car denied Wednesday, September 1, 1999

STUTTGART -- The German-US industrial giant DaimlerChrysler yesterday denied a report which said it had reached agreement with Peugeot-Citroen on co-operation in the production of a new front-wheel drive four-seater Smart car.

A report here in the paper Zeitung said that, under the terms of an agreement, Peugeot would supply the entire platform, engine, chassis and gears for a new model of the city car to be launched in 2003.

A spokesman for Micro Compact Car, the firm which makes the Smart, confirmed talks had taken place.

The newspaper said negotiations between DaimlerChrysler and Peugeot would be finalised by the start of the IAA international car salon which opens on September 16.

Der Spiegel claimed DaimlerChrysler had also contacted Honda and Fiat over possible co-operation in the production of the Smart car. -- Sapa

1,144 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
This is Published: March 28, 1999 Daimler's Tiny Smart Car Falters After a Fast Start

SMART cars are struggling to live up to their name. DaimlerChrysler's Micro Compact Car Smart subsidiary has reduced 1999 sales goals to 100,000, from 130,000, and plans to close its factory in Strasbourg, France, for two weeks next month. And in an effort to reach its new goal, Smart has cut prices, added equipment and planned a three-month ad campaign.

''Switzerland is doing better than expected, and Germany is doing well,'' said Hans-Jurg Schar, executive vice president for marketing and sales at Micro Compact Car Smart, ''but we have to really improve in Italy and France.''

This month, Smart added $275 of equipment to the basic car, including seat cushions, a 12-volt plug for accessories, better glass and a hand grip for the passenger. Prices were cut by $900, to a base price in Italy and France of about $9,300.

The microcar -- it is half as long as a Cadillac Seville -- was the dream of Nicholas Hayek, originator of the Swatch watch. He formed the Micro Compact joint venture with Daimler-Benz in 1997, but was forced out last October amid rising development costs and management disagreements.

In terms of marketing, Smart has had two basic problems: a stiff ride and a high price.

''The colors are fresh, and everybody stops to look,'' said Corinne Fleuet, manager of an Avis car rental agency in Paris. Her five-car fleet is rented every weekend -- for about $75 a day -- by curious Parisiens. ''Many of them say they want to buy one,'' she said, ''until they learn the price.''

Mr. Schar concedes that Smart buyers complain about the ''price-value'' relationship, even though many have high incomes and already own one or two cars. ''And in Germany and France the suspension is an issue,'' he said.

The hard ride is a result of changes made to keep the car stable during high-speed lane changes. Sales began in October, and despite criticism of the suspension in the automotive press, Smart reached its 1998 sales goal of 20,000 cars.

But sales slowed in January; in February Smarts were involved in minor but widely publicized accidents on snowy German roads. Avis halted rentals in Germany until the cars were fitted with snow tires.

The news had no effect on sales, Mr. Schar said, but it was another hitch. ''We presumed that drivers would stay away from the accelerator in unstable driving situations,'' said Helmut Wawra, development director for the Smart. But they didn't, so engineers will add a software package, ''Trust Plus,'' that will cut power if the wheels start to slip. Smart already had a stability control that selectively applied the anti-lock brakes to prevent spinouts.

A competitor, Patrick Le Quement, vice president for design at Renault, says the whole idea of a two-seater more expensive than Renault's four-seat Twingo is off base. The Smart, he said in an interview in Renault's in-house magazine, ''Avec,'' this month, is a phenomenon of fashion aimed at those who only want to drive something different. And he quoted the writer Jean Cocteau: ''Nothing goes out of fashion as quickly as fashion.''

1,144 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
DaimlerChrysler's Smart Car Is Lone Sore Spot at Meeting Published: May 19, 1999 By EDMUND L. ANDREWS INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS:

The snub-nosed Smart can turn on a dime, squeeze into half-sized parking spaces and switch from manual to automatic transmission at the push of a button.

But eight months after its introduction, the little car known informally as the “Swatchmobile” has become a billion-dollar headache for its parent company, DaimlerChrysler A.G.

Developed as a radical new concept for an automobile, a two-seat ''city car'' that would be safe and maneuverable and spacious on the inside, the Smart has run into a slew of problems.

First, DaimlerChrysler was forced to delay its introduction for about six months while it fixed a number of technical problems. Then customers complained that the cars slid out of control on snow and ice. Sales plunged to 10,000 in the first three months of this year from 30,000 vehicles in the last quarter of 1998.

Today, as DaimlerChrysler held its first annual shareholders meeting since the merger of Daimler-Benz and the Chrysler Corporation, the Smart was one of the company's few sore spots.

The newly merged company has enjoyed fairly solid growth among both the Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz lines. Sales climbed 9 percent, to $49.3 billion in the first four months of this year, and Mercedes sales jumped 14 percent. Company officials predicted at the annual meeting today that 1999 sales would total $148 billion, up from earlier forecasts of $145 billion.

DaimlerChrysler executives could also boast today that they have successfully moved beyond their traditional lineup of high-priced conservative sedans. The Mercedes M-Class sport utility trucks have been a huge hit in the United States and in Europe.

Even the A-Class four-seater subcompact, which encountered a torrent of problems in late 1997 after independent test-drivers flipped it during a maneuver known as the “moose test,” is now selling briskly. Analysts predict sales of the A-Class will reach 180,000 cars this year, up from 136,000 last year.

But the Smart is having considerably more difficulty. Initially conceived by Nicholas Hayek, founder of the Swatch watch company, Smart was supposed to be a more radical break with the past. DaimlerChrysler formed a new company with Mr. Hayek, the Micro Compact Car GmbH., and financed a new factory in France as well as a separate set of dealerships.

DaimlerChrysler executives had initially planned on selling at least 130,000 cars this year, but it now seems doubtful they will sell 100,000. Company executives have also said Smart must sell at least 80,000 vehicles before they can invest in developing new models.

Part of the Smart's problem is its apparent instability in snow and ice. Beginning late last year, customers complained that cars, which have a rear-mounted engine and a rear-wheel drive, had a dangerous tendency to over steer.

DaimlerChrysler responded by installing a computer-controlled anti-skidding system, which has received favorable reviews in several car magazines.

But industry analysts say Smart's biggest problem is that it costs too much and delivers too little. The most basic model costs about 16,000 German marks, or about $8,800. For that price, consumers can also pick several four-seat cars like the Ford Ka or the Renault Clio.

“The question is whether there are really that many people who want a two-seater car just for the purpose of having inner-city mobility,” said Christian Breitsprecher, an automobile analyst at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt.

To a great extent, DaimlerChrysler initially marketed the car as an expression of life style -- a car that was irreverent, innovative, hip and environmentally friendly.

Now it has shifted strategy. It began a big new advertising campaign emphasizing practical issues like maneuverability and storage space. It also extended the list of standard equipment to include radios and extra padding. It cut the price by several hundred dollars.

Robert J. Eaton, co-chairman of DaimlerChrysler, insisted today that it was still loyal to the Smart.

''The Smart is one of the most innovative cars on the market,'' he said at the annual meeting today in Stuttgart. Daimler's recent measures to correct weaknesses, he said, would provide the conditions to ''give the Smart a new chance.''

Company officials did not disclose Smart's sales in April, except to say that they had increased significantly over those in the first three months of the year. “The clear increase in orders confirms our optimism,” said Jurgen E. Schrempp, Daimler's other co-chairman.

Several German publications have reported that Mr. Schrempp has vowed to cut back Daimler's investment in new Smart models if it fails to improve its sales in the next six months.

Analysts say the Smart becomes particularly costly if its production remains below 100,000 units a year. The reason is that DaimlerChrysler guaranteed many parts suppliers an annual production volume of about 100,000 units to get them to set up near the Smart factory in Hambach, France.

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Discussion Starter #9
Do Swatch Makers Have “Smart” Car? Published: THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 1997 By Barry James

FRANKFURT: The first sight that greets visitors to the Frankfurt auto show is a large glass tower containing 16 curious, brightly colored automobiles stacked on top of one another.

It looks like a watch display in a department store, and the resemblance is probably intentional, for this is the long-awaited "Smart" car produced in eastern France by Daimler-Benz AG from a concept developed by Swiss Watch Co., which is known by the initials SMH.

The Smart car is the size of an electric golf cart, but its developers say it can carry two passengers and their luggage in comfort, reach a highway speed of 130 kilometers (80 miles) an hour and stay intact in a crash with much larger vehicles. The company that makes the auto, Micro Compact Car AG, which is owned 81 percent by the Mercedes-Benz unit of Daimler-Benz AG and 19 percent by SMH, hopes that the little vehicle will become ubiquitous on crowded city streets and as trendy as SMH's Swatch throwaway timepieces.

Motor-industry analysts describe the Smart as evidence of new thinking by automobile manufacturers amid concern about increasing congestion and pollution in cities. VW's Audi division showed an all-aluminum four-seat turbo-diesel vehicle that it says will run 100 kilometers (62 miles) on only three liters (about 0.8 gallon) of fuel.

Mercedes-Benz has already introduced its compact A-series car, and it is showing an idea for a computer-controlled three-wheeled vehicle for two passengers in line that it says will combine the advantages of a motorbike and a city car.

The Smart car is an attempt to combat the tyranny of the car in many modern cities. According to Juergen Hubbert, the president of Micro Compact Car AG, it will restore freedom and individuality to driving.

Nicolas Hayek, the vice president, called it "a symbol of our common European future."

The auto-show display for the Smart car includes a model that was crashed head-on into a large Mercedes sedan at 50 kilometers (30 miles) an hour. Both vehicles appeared to have sustained the same amount of damage, and the passenger compartment of the Smart car was not deformed

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Discussion Starter #10
Can Less Be More? Published the International Herald Tribune FRIDAY, December 18, 1998 By Gavin Green

Getting Smart in the City And all this vitriol directed at a company — Mercedes-Benz — hitherto regarded as the world's most competent car engineering firm.

MERCEDES-BENZ has taken so much flak in the last year that it's a wonder its bosses don't turn up for press conferences wearing combat fatigues. First, the A-class, the revolutionary "baby car." And, more recently, the Smart car, an even smaller and more radical city car that got the same sort of warm and affectionate welcome from the motoring critics that Agamemnon got when he visited Troy.

Too cramped, too expensive, too stodgy to drive, too rough-riding.

And all this vitriol directed at a company — Mercedes-Benz — hitherto regarded as the world's most competent car engineering firm.

Not that the Smart car program was Mercedes' idea, at least not in the first place. Nicolas Hayek, the boss of Swatch, the watch people, wanted to make a small, stylish, environment-friendly city car. He spoke to a number of car companies, including Volkswagen, about collaboration.

VW thought the idea was financial suicide. "Why would anyone pay more for a two-seater micro car than they would for a four-seater small car?" asked VW's boss, Ferdinand Piech. After conceding the majority stake to Mercedes, Hayek's involvement was reduced until, last month, Mercedes took over the project completely.

Today in Culture

Norman Mailer, novelist, dies at 84Strike shuts many New York theatersAt auctions, nuance gives way to shockYet the Swatch legacy lives on. The Smart car, a two-seater, comes in bright colors and — as with Swatch straps — you can change the plastic exterior panels when you tire of them. Or, more likely, given the car's city milieu, when they get scratched. The cabin, too, is as bright as a bag of candy and the quality of the trim is a cut or two above what you'd expect in a Fiesta or a Punto.

Unlike most cars, which are designed to be all things to all people, the Smart is a specialized vehicle. It is designed for the city. It is not meant for the freeway or winding country roads or for hauling four hefty people to a ski resort in winter. It is assumed that customers will own other cars for the long haul.

This city-car bias gave the engineers a wonderfully focused brief. The car had to be as small as possible because city cars should be easy to park and should help reduce congestion.

The upshot is that the Smart is the smallest production car ever, noticeably shorter than that old micro champ, the Mini.

Its engine is under the trunk, above the rear wheels. No hood is necessary, saving length. Nor does it have rear seats, but in town most cars rarely seat more than two people. There is no clutch pedal because in traffic, clutch pedals are a nuisance. The Smart has a motorcycle-style sequential gearshift, with an automatic clutch.

The little car is a buzz to drive. Shifting gears is blissfully easy without a clutch to juggle, and the little three-cylinder turbo engine, growling behind your back, delivers a strong kick. It accelerates strongly to 60 kph (38 mph) — up to city driving pace — but becomes more breathless after that. Top speed is 135 kph, but the car is more comfortable at lower velocities. The engine sounds great too — like a powerful motorcycle.

The ride is not good, more ruffled rug than magic carpet. And the steering wheel requires far more twirling than you'd think, which can make the Smart feel cumbersome.

The final drawback is the car's tendency, at speed, to understeer or lose road-holding ability at the front. This is not a problem in town, but can limit speeds if you wander outside the car's natural domain.

Around town, though, it's fabulous. I loved it, and so did just about everybody else who saw it. I have never driven a car that created more interest. Is the cost — roughly the same money as for a low-specification Ford Ka or a Volkswagen Lupo — too much? Not when you look at its quality of construction, and its excellence in town.

Despite the criticism, one senses that the public mood is starting to swing toward Mercedes.

A once stolid company is now winning a reputation as a funky, cool carmaker, helped by the youthfulness of the A-class and the Smart. The flak seems to have done Mercedes some good. Anyway, isn't combat gear all the fashion just now?

Smart City Coupe. About $11,000. Three-cylinder, 599cc, turbocharged engine, rear-mounted. Maximum power 54 bhp at 5,250 rpm. Six-speed sequential transmission, rear-wheel drive. Top speed: 135 kph (84 mph). Acceleration: 0-100 kph in 17.2 seconds. Average fuel consumption: 5.0 liters/100 kilometers.

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Discussion Starter #11
The ‘smartest’ car at the Motor Show PR Newswire UK - PR Newswire UK - Oct 25, 2000

Some of the top-flight cars on display at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham are capable of speeds exceeding 200 mph.

But the tiny, German built smart car, which can just about manage a maximum of 85 mph has been attracting crowds just as strongly as the Aston Martins, Jaguars and Ferraris.

The smart's patriotic Union Jack one-off special edition paint job was designed by London-based artist Pip Hackett to celebrate the car's official entry into the UK market at the Show last week. It will be auctioned for charity at the end of the Show.

Built by Micro Compact Car GmbH, part of the DaimlerChrysler group, the nifty two-seater boasts a 599 cc engine and returns an average 65.7 miles to the gallon.

At first the car will be sold in busy metropolitan shopping areas like London, Milton Keynes and Birmingham, but eventually DaimlerChrysler UK intends to roll out a national sales network for its smart little car.

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Discussion Starter #12
DCX eyes U.S for smart car May 9, 2001 Mini car can park easily, fit in pickups, but profits and sales are a tougher fit

NEW YORK (CNNfn) - DaimlerChrysler is looking at bringing its micro car, the smart brand car, to a U.S. market that has increasingly moved to purchases of trucks and vans over cars.The smart car is a two-passenger vehicle just over 8 feet long and just under 5 feet wide that can be carried in the box of many pick-ups on U.S. roads today.

The smart car, a two passenger vehicle that DaimlerChrysler is looking at bringing to the U.S. market in 2003, would be the smallest car in the U.S. market. (Source: smart)

At only 1,587 pounds, it would be the lightest car ever allowed on the road by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, assuming it passed the test. The lightest vehicle now on the road is the Honda Insight, an electric/gasoline hybrid vehicle that weighs 1,868 pounds, or 17 percent more.

Officials with DaimlerChrysler said they will be studying the introduction of the vehicle to the U.S. market over the rest of the year, and that a roll-out in dealer showrooms here probably wouldn't happen until the middle of 2003 at the earliest.

"I think the chances are good," said Simone Maier, spokeswoman for smart. "But nothing has been decided. The studies are ongoing."

The move is ironic in light of DaimlerChrysler's recent decision to start marketing its Unimog multi-purpose vehicle through its Freightliner truck division to some niche consumers. That would make it the largest non-commercial vehicles on U.S. roads. Unimog is nearly twice as tall as a smart car and is more than two feet wider. In fact the smart car's length is only 14 inches longer than Unimog's width.

Maier admits that the car would not pass U.S. crash safety standards in its current configuration and that some additional engineering would have to be done. But she said she's confident the price would stay close to its current 10,000, or $8,849 basic list price.

The price, and the fuel economy of about 49 miles per gallon, as well as the ability to easily park on crowded U.S. streets are seen as selling points. The car is short enough to pull into a parking spot with its nose flush to the curb and not stick out into traffic on some streets.

The company saw sales of the smart car climb by about a quarter last year to 102,100 from 79,900 in 1999. But the car, introduced to the European market in 1998 and to Japan last year, has been unable to make money for DaimlerChrysler, despite the high fuel prices and narrow streets in those markets.

One analyst said it would have an even tougher time finding a market on U.S. roads dominated by larger vehicles. The car is only 61 inches tall, which would put its roof below the hood of the Ford Excursion, the largest sport/utility vehicle on the market.

"It's doesn't hurt to speculate on bringing it to the U.S. market, but I don't think there's a chance they'll do it," said Stephen Reitman, analyst for Merrill Lynch in London. "I would put it in the failure camp. Commercially, financially, its didn't fulfill the hopes the company has had for it."

Reitman estimates the division is losing about 350 million or 400 million a year on the smart brand, although DaimlerChrysler has never separated it out from the Mercedes results.

The model has had trouble finding a dealer network in Europe. Maier said that DaimlerChrysler would likely turn to Mercedes dealers in the United States to sell the vehicle here, but she couldn't say if the more numerous Chrysler or Dodge dealers would also be tapped to sell the vehicle.

She also said the company is likely to start sales in the more crowded markets on the east and west coasts. She said one of the things being studied this year is which markets are the best fit for the car and which buyers are the best to target.

(Source: Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company.)

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Discussion Starter #13
November 5, 2002 DaimlerChrysler AG said it plans to build a four-seat version of the ultra-compact Smart car at a plant in Brazil.

Automaker DaimlerChrysler AG said Monday it plans to build a four-seat version of the ultra-compact Smart car at a plant in Brazil. Published November 5, 2002.

Automaker DaimlerChrysler AG said Monday it plans to build a four-seat version of the ultra-compact Smart car at a plant in Brazil, a move that it described as an ``important step'' toward launching the Smart in the United States. The Juiz de Fora plant currently produces Mercedes A-class cars for the Brazilian market and C-class vehicles for North America, and would be the first factory outside Europe to produce Smart models. DaimlerChrysler did not say when.

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Discussion Starter #14
The Miami Herald Source: Associated Press Unique Four-Wheel Drive SUV Arrives in 2006

BOSTON, April 14 /PRNewswire/ — smart, the global automotive brand that is revolutionizing the design, production and marketing of premium small vehicles around the world, will launch in the United States in 2006 with a new type of SUV — a smart utility vehicle. Called the smart formore, the first smart to be sold in the U.S. market will feature four-wheel drive and be suited to all roads and driving conditions.

With the introduction of the formore, smart will be represented in the world’s largest automotive market for the first time. The smart formore will also be offered in the company’s other core markets.

“The formore is the ideal model to launch the smart brand in the U.S. market,” said Scott Keogh, general manager, smart USA. “We see a huge opportunity in this market for this truly distinct brand, which has the courage and resources to make a real break from conventional automotive thinking. With its unique engineering and design elements and exuberant character, the smart formore will bring the brand’s core characteristics to a segment populated by ‘me-too’ vehicles.” Keogh explained that because the formore will be unique in the U.S. market, “SUV” translates to “smart utility vehicle.”

Designed specifically for the American market, the smart formore will be built in the Mercedes-Benz plant in Juiz de Fora, Brazil. The plant has a capacity of 60,000 cars per year, with half to be sold in the U.S. in the first full sales year. Currently, other smart models are built in the smartville complex in Hambach, France near the German border and at the NedCar facility in Born, Netherlands.

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Discussion Starter #15
smart Naming Concept AUTOS ON FRIDAY/Design; If This Is the Future, It's Not Exactly Pretty

CONCEPT cars have long been a staple of automobile shows because these vehicles allow auto makers to achieve two self-serving goals simultaneously: manufacturers can appear to be engineering leaders by showing off state-of-the-art technology (even if some of it is so conceptual it may never find its way into mass production) while keeping consumers hooked on one of the industry's most potent narcotics -- the dream machine.

"Different Roads: Automobiles for the Next Century," an exhibit that opened July 22 at the Museum of Modern Art, takes the concept car and turns the concept on its head. Although all the vehicles displayed in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden include cutting-edge engineering and design features, some are already available to consumers in various countries, and most of the others will soon be as well.

And far from being fantasy inducing, these vehicles -- designed for a world running short of clean air, crude oil and parking spaces -- offer a conscience-awakening look at the types of cars that we may not want to drive in the future, but probably will have to.

The poster child for the show is its smallest exhibit: the Smart Car, a joint venture of DaimlerChrysler and Swatch. Sport utility owners may shudder at its length: a shade under 100 inches long. With little more than a dashboard and two seats inside, the Smart Car looks as if it could have accidentally rolled off a conveyor belt on a Disney World ride. But in Europe, where it has been on sale since 1998, it is smart indeed, taking up half a typical parking spot.

As small as the Ford Ka is -- 143 inches long -- it is about 45 percent longer than the Smart Car. About a half million Kas have been sold in Australia, Europe, Latin America and Japan since 1996. The Ka looks at home in the Modern: its exterior and interior are marked by soothing, organic curves and long, unbroken lines. Nonetheless, its name -- an Egyptian word for soul -- may seem like a self-deprecating joke. It's so small, a three-letter word is far too lavish to describe it.

For drivers whose cars represent an inviolable and essential chunk of their personal space, two vehicles in "Different Roads" provide the comforting promise that the spacious interior is safe for Year 2000 and beyond. The Audi Al2, a 1,700-pound minivan expected to go on sale in Europe later this year, uses extensive aluminum construction and takes styling cues from the Audi TT. The museum notes play up features that are not unusual -- navigation system, clutchless manual transmission -- but ignore the intriguing multilens head lamps.

Another minivan, the Fiat Multipla Bipower, comes by its tongue-twisting name deservedly. Its hybrid engine can combine gasoline use with diesel, electric or methane. The dashboard makes ergonomic sense: the screen for the navigation system is directly in front of the driver (the instruments -- requiring less-frequent glances by comparison -- are in the middle). Or the screen can be plugged in to face the passengers, to show movies to entertain children. The middle front seat can even be replaced by a small refrigerator. Not to worry, though, Americans won't be adding refrigerator raids to their long list of driving distractions because there are no plans to sell the Multipla in the United States.

Hybrid and alternative-power cars are also represented at the Modern's exhibit: the General Motors EV1 electric, available for lease in Western states, and the Honda VV and Toyota Prius, gasoline-electric hybrids to go on sale here within a year. The Prius features homely styling typical of the Japan-only market, but the VV (to be called Insight here), like the EV1, has a tapered tail reminiscent of Citroen sedans.

Speaking of Citroens, the one vehicle that does more to produce dread for the future of car styling than any other is the DaimlerChrysler Composite Concept Vehicle -- CCV for short (like everything in this exhibit). It is meant to evoke the Citroen 2CV and to be as easy to build as a toy, but its injection-molded plastic body makes the CCV seem more like motorized lawn furniture. The CCV will be marketed in developing countries, which may or may not ease their resentment of the major economic powers.

"Different Roads: Automobiles for the Next Century" is at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53d Street, Manhattan, (212) 708-9400, through Sept. 21.

By JOSEPH SIANO Published: July 30, 1999 New York Times
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