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GERMANY: Smart not seen profitable anytime soon

By just-auto.com editorial team | 17 January 2005

DaimlerChrysler's Smart division does not expect to book a profit anytime soon, its chief executive was quoted on Monday as saying by Germany's industry newspaper Automobilwoche.

"We will be profitable in three years at the earliest," Ulrich Walker reportedly said in an interview, which the Reuters news agency noted was a departure from earlier statements in which he declined to give a timetable to drag the loss-making carmaker into the black.

Reuters added that Heinz Gottwick, Smart's head of communications, nonetheless repeated on Monday his firm denial made last week following a similar report in the Financial Times that quoted Walker saying it was his personal target to be profitable within three to four years.

"Walker did not say that. Nothing has changed since last week. He wants to bring Smart back to profitability as soon as possible," Gottwick told Reuters.

According to the news agency, Walker also said in the Automobilwoche interview that a decision would be reached by the end of March over launching the Smart brand in the US market and whether to build its ForMore compact off-roader.

Reuters noted that the ForFour four-seater that made its debut last year is the division's newest and thus-far largest model, and that Walker said he was expecting to sell some 80,000 units this year, up from 60,000 in 2004.

He reportedly said that new volume could come down the line in the form of new versions of the ForFour.

"Derivatives of the ForFour are already conceivable starting in 2007," he said, according to Reuters.