Smart Forfour Brabus Review, Wintonsworld - 2005 | Catalog-cars

Smart Forfour Brabus Review, Wintonsworld – 2005

13 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Smart Forfour Brabus Review, Wintonsworld – 2005

But Expensive, Harsh Ride, Competition Too Good

By Normal Standards, Loss-Making Smart Should Be Dead And Buried

** out of 5

You have to admire the folks at Smart for persistence and dedication to the task, in the face of almost overwhelming odds.

Smart is introducing the ForFour Brabus, a souped up version of the ForFour, which will whisk you from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.9 seconds and all the way to 137 mph (221 km/h). The fact that the tweaked little four-seater has made it to the showrooms at all is nothing short of amazing because of Smart#146;s financial crisis. With each Smart car losing about 4,000 euros each time a punter drives one away, many experts expected its owner, Mercedes, to simply shut the whole operation down.

Smart started life in 1998 with the little two-seater city car now called the Fortwo, then moved on to produce the Smart roadster, and the four-seater, the Forfour. We were promised a ForMore SUV. The point of the Smart brand was that Mercedes wanted to attract younger buyers who might later trade up to proper Mercedes.

Also, because of U.S. and potential European regulation which insisted that manufacturers produce much better fuel economy measured by the average efficiency across all the cars they produced, it made sense for the likes of Mercedes Benz to produce many more smaller cars.

Why do you think BMW bought Rover? Not because it made fabulous cars. BMW desperately needed to pad out its manufacturing with a large number of smaller cars to improve its across-the-range fuel economy.

BMW#146;s attempt to buy this capability off the shelf was a mistake which almost ruined the company. BMW#146;s Mini has succeeded where Rover failed, although some still doubt the long term viability of Mini because of the fashionable nature of its success. When you strip out the #147;cute#148; style factor, Minis really offer very little in terms of efficacy and usefulness, for a very high price.

BMW must be crossing its fingers hoping that the bubble will not burst.

Ubiquitous

The Smart brand appears to be a big success. After all, the little Fortwos are almost ubiquitous these days in fashion centres like London, Rome and Paris, despite the fact that the Fortwo fails to provide what you might think were essential qualities in a city car #150; easy parking and effortless automatic gearboxes. The lack of #147;creep#148; in the auto box of the ForFour makes parking in tight spaces a fight against the inevitable dent.

In regular automatics, you hold the power of the engine#146;s tickover against the brake to gradually manoeuvre into a space. With the Smart you have to press the accelerator. One day you are bound to overcook the blip on the accelerator and bash into the car behind.

The auto box is still painfully slow to move through the gears, providing a frustrating, aggravating experience as you wait for the next gear to engage.

Smart car production loses an almost unbelievable amount of money, and parent company Mercedes has now insisted that the operation is cut back. The ForMore SUV has been dumped, as has the Roadster. The plan to expand into the U.S. has been put on the backburner.

Bite The Bullet

Investment bankers like Morgan Stanley believe that DaimlerChrysler, which owns Mercedes Benz, should bite the bullet and shut down the Smart division. Morgan Stanley reckons that any attempt to prop-up the flawed city-car venture is doomed to failure and will just waste more money.

In the spring of 2005, when it announced the axing of the ForMore SUV, DaimlerChrysler said it will spend 1.2 billion euros to try and fix it. Smart would lose another 600 million euros this year. It lost 500 million euros in 2004.

Breakeven was promised for 2007.

Smart has been a chronic loss maker since its birth in 1998 and promises of break-even have never been fulfilled. Lehman Brothers, another investment bank, estimates that Smart has lost a total of more than 3 billion euros since its birth, and reckons that Smart will have cost DaimlerChrysler over 5 billion euros by 2007. The annual sales target for the first year of 200,000 has long since been abandoned, and only 152,000 cars were sold last year, 10 per cent lower than the latest target.

Negative Margin 35%

According to Morgan Stanley, every time a Smart car drove away from a showroom, Mercedes lost a staggering 4,000 euros, a negative margin of 35 per cent.

So will the Brabus ForFour turn around the fortunes of Smart?

Hardly. At £17,195 the car, a derivative of the Mitsubishi Colt, seems very expensive, particularly when you think that this money will almost buy a Mini Cooper S or a Golf GTI. Sure, it goes like stink, but the ride is harsh.

It looks bland. Inside, the car is stylish, with heated black leather seats, leather instrument panel and door trims. On the outside, there is an enlarged front spoiler, chrome twin sports exhausts, and side skirts. The roof spoiler apparently reduces lift on the rear axle #147;by 50 kilograms at maximum speed, thereby giving the vehicle additional stability.#148;

Firm Fillings Required

Under the bonnet, the 1.5 litre turbocharged engine has been developed by Brabus and delivers 177 bhp.

The Brabus ForFour will have its fans, probably 20 somethings with too much money and firmly fixed fillings. If potential buyers are worried about buying a car from a company that might go down the drain, they can probably stop worrying. Mercedes is there for the long haul.

Smart might be losing fortunes, but it would cost even more to close it down, and it does provide a crucial bit of ammunition for Mercedes. For all their faults, Smarts don#146;t guzzle gas. That#146;s almost priceless if you make Maybachs and V-12 S class limousines. Neil Winton #150; July 31, 2005

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