The new ForFour has been developed with Renault and shares many parts with the French automaker’s new third-generation Twingo. The ForFour and Twingo will both be made on the same platform at Renault's plant in Novo Mesto, Slovenia.
Despite the extensive sharing with Renault, Zetsche claims the ForFour "will be a true Smart offered at a competitive price" and that it represents a unique selling proposition "which you cannot get from competitors.”
The Daimler CEO admitted that the first-generation ForFour lacked proper Smart genes.
"Apart for some styling cues, the two vehicles had nothing in common,” Zetsche said. In fact, the ForFour's closest sibling was the 2003 Mitsubishi Colt, with which it shared most of its components, including chassis and suspension, and it was built at the Japanese automakers NedCar plant in Born, Netherlands.
Zetsche says he is confident that this time production of the ForFour is a feasible plan that will be executed properly. Declining to give specific sales target, he would only say that Smart had not set over-ambitious targets for the new ForFour.
Smart will unveil the second-generation ForFour together with third-generation ForTwo this summer. Sales of the two vehicles will start in Europe this autumn. Since 1998, Smart has sold more than 1.55 million ForTwos, although last year’s global sales of the five-year old second-generation vehicle fell by 7 percent to 98,000 units.
Daimler includes Smart in its Mercedes-Benz Cars division and does not disclose separate financial data for its minicar brand. Zetsche admits that "our balance sheet has not been strengthened by Smart" in the past, but now believes a successful ForFour could help Smart return its first profit ever.
"We have a feasible business case with our new generation” Smart vehicles, Zetsche said.
The Daimler CEO continues to see big opportunities for Smart in urban metropolitan areas. Had Daimler not invented Smart 20 years ago, it would have to do so today, he said. But Daimler still does not expect Smart to become a big profit earner within the group. Smart "will never be at the high end of the profitability range within our portfolio, but we think it’s playing an increasingly important role as far as [fleet average] carbon dioxide emission are concerned,” Zetsche said.