NEW DELHI -- The Indian unit of automaker DaimlerChrysler AG had its best year in 2004 since its debut a decade ago as vehicle sales rose about 15 percent and revenue about 23 percent.
In a market dominated by low-price hatchbacks, DaimlerChrysler's premium cars are bought by only a small but growing elite created by more than a decade of rapid economic growth in India.
Thirteen companies compete in India, including the local units of global companies such as General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp.
DaimlerChrysler India Pvt. Ltd. said in a statement Wednesday that it sold 1,815 units in 2004, which ranged from its top-end Mercedes-Benz S-class series to the lower-priced C-class cars.
Sales included 88 imported units such as the Maybach superluxury sedan, which only came to India about three months ago.
Sales revenue in the year stood at $122.3 million.
India's car sales surged more than 20 percent in 2004 helped by rapidly rising incomes, the cheapest loans in 30 years, massive discounts and price cuts triggered by competition.
Suhas Kadlaskar, finance director at DaimlerChrysler's Indian unit, told Reuters the company had not completed accounts for 2004 but expected the company's pretax profit to exceed $10.3 million, up from $8 million in 2003.
Last year was DaimlerChrysler's fifth straight year in the black in India, but the company still has accumulated losses of about $53 million to $55 million notched up in the first few years when its set up its local manufacturing facility.
"We would like to maintain the same rate of growth in vehicle sales in 2005, but there would be pressure on profitability because of the rising euro," Kadlaskar said.
DaimlerChrysler entered India in 1994 and assembles cars at its plant in the western Indian city of Pune. Its vendors also export auto parts from India and it is also preparing to launch the Actros heavy truck in the country.
Kadlaskar said the company would introduce its Actros in the first or second quarter of 2005 by importing completely built units. They would be available in the 18 to 41 ton gross vehicle weight range.