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DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes lifts European carmakers' US sales

DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes boosted US sales by 12% in October, helped by demand for models including its R-class crossover vehicle, while the other large European automakers all posted declines.

Sales fell for BMW, Volkswagen AG, Audi AG and Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo, the biggest European brands in the US by volume, according to figures compiled yesterday by Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. Buoyed by Mercedes, the 15 European brands in the US eked out a 0.3% gain. “Mercedes continues to enjoy sales of new models, its SUVs and R-class,'' said Jim Sanfilippo, an analyst at Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc. in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. “The light is shining brightly and will continue to next year.” The October sales reflected a rebound for Detroit's automakers from their worst month of 2005, with an 8.9% gain for General Motors Corp., Ford and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler. Asian carmakers' US sales increased 3.6%. With year-earlier sales so weak for GM, Ford and Chrysler, “the comparisons look better than they actually are,” said Elisabeth Denison, an economist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in New York.

Mercedes's sales surge to 20,613 vehicles left it just behind Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, the world's largest luxury carmaker, at 20,822 vehicles. Including sales by the Mini unit, Munich-based BMW's total was 24,464, down 4.4% from a year earlier. BMW attributed the October decline to its decision to limit its inventory of some vehicles while introducing newer versions of models including the X3 and X5 sport-utility vehicles. Volkswagen, Europe's largest carmaker, said US sales fell 7.4% to 15,942 vehicles as demand for Jetta and Passat models dropped. Ten-month US sales for Wolfsburg, Germany- based Volkswagen climbed 9.9% to 198,116 vehicles. “Volkswagen has had a good run,” Sanfilippo said. “The year-to-date increase is still noteworthy. They just have to ramp up their marketing to push their products into the market. More is always better.” Audi AG, Volkswagen's luxury-car unit, said US sales in October fell 3.4% to 6,431, led by a decline in deliveries of the A6 sedan. Sales by Ford's Volvo dropped 3.6% to 8,395 vehicles, pushing the brand's year-to-date decline to 7.9 percent. Fredrik Arp, CEO of Sweden-based Volvo, said in a September 29 interview that Volvo would boost US sales with new models in 2007. Porsche AG, the world's most profitable carmaker, said US sales fell 9% in October to 2,355 vehicles on lower demand for the Cayenne sport-utility vehicle. Stuttgart, Germany-based Porsche sold just two of its Carrera GTs, its most expensive model, down from 26 a year earlier. (Bloomberg)