Daimler earns rebound strongly on new model sales

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Automaker Daimler AG said Wednesday that net profit almost doubled in the first quarter, as new Mercedes S-Class and E-Class models fueled sales growth.

The company gave an upbeat outlook for this year and predicted stronger demand for cars in the world's developed countries — including recovering Western Europe. Net profit rose to 1.086 billion euros ($1.498 billion) from 564 million euros in last year's quarter. Revenue increased 13 percent to 29.5 billion euros. The net profit figure was short of the 1.173 billion euros foreseen by analysts surveyed by financial information provider FactSet, and Daimler shares fell 2.2 percent at 66.35 euros.

The company credited its efforts to update its model line and continue growth in unit sales in China and the United States. The new version of the luxury S-Class more than doubled sales for the brand's flagship model, which brings fat profit margins, and the company's range of smaller cars saw sales growth as well.

The company has also reorganized its China sales operation, whose troubles weighed on earnings last year and contributed to the company having to issue a profit warning. The year-ago quarter was also burdened by heavy expenditures on new plants and equipment, spending that is intended to increase future profits.

CEO Dieter Zetsche said that "our strategy is paying off, our investments are bearing fruit." Sales in China for the Mercedes-Benz brand rose 52 percent to 70,300 vehicles. The China rebound helped overcome a slide in the company's home market, Germany, where sales fell 3 percent to 59,100 — even as overall sales in Western Europe rose 5 percent.

The company said revenues and earnings would "significantly increase" this year over last year, fueled by stronger growth in the world's richer countries such as the United States and Western Europe.

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