Positive response to the smart forfour
The activities carried out so far in preparation for the market launch and the reaction to the smart forfour in this connection confirm that the first four-seater from smart has good prospects in the competitive small car segment. For example the new product most recently met with great approval during the forfour "together on tour", roadshow which took place within the framework of Robbie Williams' European tour. "We are very pleased about the extremely positive reaction to our new car. So far, more than 100,000 potential customers have expressed serious interest in the forfour – a promising response which shows that many drivers are looking for a "classless" car in the small car segment that they can be proud of", says Philipp Schiemer, Vice President Marketing & Sales at smart.
Worldwide market presence further extended
Within the framework of its market drive, in 2003 smart increased the number of markets worldwide from 24 to 31 and the Points of Sale rose from just under 600 to more than 700. The most important new markets were Australia and Mexico. Market entry in Mexico marks the company's first step on the American continent and the economically significant NAFTA region. smart is gathering additional experience in this market which will be applied to the preparations for the planned entry to the US market in 2006.
In 2003 the most important markets for smart continued to be Germany with 43,600 vehicles delivered, Italy (32,000), Great Britain (12,900) and France (9,700). Whilst Germany and Italy kept the high sales level of the previous year, Great Britain and France saw a clear growth in sales with plus 34 and plus 14 per cent respectively.
Efficiency drive forms the basis for reaching break-even
In 2003 the company resolutely continued its path towards improved efficiency. The first year at the new company headquarters in Böblingen has further streamlined internal processes and speeded up decision-making. "In the year that is drawing to a close our turnaround plan has resulted in further, important progress", says Andreas Renschler. "We have succeeded in reducing our total overheads by 35 per cent and our production costs by more than 15 per cent as against 1999. In our Hambach plant productivity has increased from 117 to more than 140 cars per employee – despite the rising complexity of parts", the smart CEO adds.
The greater cost efficiency is above all due to optimised processes and work flows and the use of synergies within the Mercedes Car Group and the DaimlerChrysler group. The company is right on track for the target of reaching break-even in 2004. Already in 2003 every smart model sold achieved a positive contribution margin.