* Smart launches new four-seater, revamped two-seater models
* Models, Renault-Nissan tie-up improve business case - CEO
* Global city-car sales to grow 35 percent by 2020 - IHS
By Andreas Cremer
BERLIN, July 16 Daimler is betting
that cooperation with Renault and the launch of models
to tap growing demand for city cars may pave the way for its
diminutive Smart brand to become profitable.
Smart will add a new four-seater model to its lineup this
year and upgrade the two-passenger Fortwo vehicle, raising hopes
by the German group of boosting the brand's flagging sales.
Analysts including Bernstein's Max Warburton have said huge
development, production and distribution costs of Smart's
first-generation model launched in 1998 inflicted a
multibillion-euro loss on Daimler.
"I'm tempted to say that the multi-billion losses have been
shrinking for decades," Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche
told reporters on Wednesday at Smart's new product launch in
"Following a restructuring seven-eight years ago, Smart
hasn't had a considerable negative influence on our overall
business and we now want to turn this into a positive
influence," the CEO said.
"With cooperation partner Renault-Nissan, we're showing that
we can significantly improve the business case" for Smart,
Zetsche added, declining to be more specific.
Zetsche said Daimler has halved development costs at Smart
following a 2010 cooperation accord with the French small-car
specialist, allowing the Smart Fortwo successor, the new
four-seater and Renault's Twingo model to share a joint
The 105-inch (2.7-metre) long Smart ForTwo "microcar" never
met ambitious sales targets of as many as 200,000 per year.
Deliveries peaked at about 140,000 cars in 2008 and dipped below
100,000 last year.
Together with the 137-inch (3.5-metre) Forfour, a revival of
a four-seater model that Smart scrapped in 2006 on poor sales,
Daimler's minicar brand will compete with models such as
Volkswagen's Up!, Fiat's 500 and General
Motors' Opel Adam.
With urban populations steadily growing, deliveries of city
cars may increase 35 percent worldwide by the end of the decade
to about 6.2 million, according to research firm IHS Automotive.
"We want to cut out a fair slice of this growing cake,"
The Smart Fortwo topped a September 2013 list of the 10
"most loss-making cars of modern times" by Bernstein Research
which claimed the model was losing 4,470 euros per vehicle.
The successor, due to hit European dealerships on Nov. 22,
will cost about 10,400 euros while the four-seater version will
be priced at about 11,000 euros, Smart brand chief Annette
($1 = 0.7387 Euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by James Dalgleish)