It may have been the setting for the most famous film featuring Minis, but Italy also has a love affair with the Smart car.
More than one quarter of all Smarts sold last year went to Italy and in Rome alone, 30,000 of them have been registered since the company started sales in 1998.
The ‘Joi de vivre’ that Smart products give has been embraced by the Italians more than anybody else in Europe according to Phillip Schiemer, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Smart.
"In 2003 we sold 32,600 Smart models in Italy and that was more than a quarter of our record sales of 124,700."
The City Coupe, now to be called the ForTwo, and the lively little roadster will now be joined by the company’s first four-seater, the Forfour which was launched in Rome of course.
Schiemer continued, "The Smart Forfour is our third model and preparations are underway for our fourth, the Formore and we will enter the US market with this car in 2006."
Smart will make 50,000 Forfour units this year at NedCar factory in The Netherlands in conjunction with Mitsubishi Motors and 80,000 in 2005.
Schiemer admitted that Smart’s breakeven plan for 2004 after the introduction of the Forfour would not happen and it now expects to make its first profit in 2006 after Formore has entered the market.
In the UK Smart sales of the two-seater A segment cars have grown from 956 units in 2000 to 8,566 in 2003.
Jeremy Simpson, Head of Smart in the UK said, "the B segment Forfour will go on sale in the UK in September and we will have 4,500 units to sell this year."
Next year Smart plans to sell between 12,000 and 15,000 Forfours in the UK with the model split favouring the 1.1 litre with a 50/50 split between Passion and Pulse specifications.
Simpson said he thought 10 ten per cent of current two-seat Smart owners would become customers of the new five door Smart Forfour.
Smart dealers will have left-hand-drive versions of the FourFour from June onwards. Simpson said, "I expect the 1.1-litre three cylinder petrol model to account for 40 per cent of sales followed by the 1.3 petrol but 1.5 litre diesels should eventually account for around 30 per cent of sales".
UK prices have yet to be confirmed but are expected to start at around £9,000 and range up to £12,500.Published 5 June 2004