FRANKFURT -- DaimlerChrysler's premium division Mercedes Car Group increased vehicle sales by 2.2 percent to 100,200 units in July, thanks to a stronger performance at its flagship Mercedes-Benz brand.
In the first seven months of the year, sales were down 1.3 percent at 674,200 units, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
The division, once the supporting pillar of DaimlerChrysler, has fallen behind arch rival BMW in terms of sales and earnings and is on the lookout for a new chief.
Current head Eckhard Cordes is looking to leave the company after he lost out in a power struggle to replace Daimler CEO Juergen Schrempp.
Last month, sales of Mercedes-Benz brand cars rose 4.4 percent to 88,200 units, a larger increase than the 3.5 to 4 percent gain Cordes had signalled in late July.
Accumulated sales through July were still some 3.1 percent lower at 588,200 vehicles.
The company said 12,400 units of its new B-Class compact sports tourer were delivered to customers since the model first hit dealerships early in July.
Daimler also said there were more than 30,000 orders for the M-Class offroader almost four weeks after market launch in Europe. In early July, the company said it already had some 26,500 orders in western Europe for the sports utility vehicle.
Smart brand sales fell 11.6 percent to 12,000 units, but the maker of quirky subcompact and microcars managed to boost accumulated sales by 13.3 percent to 86,000 cars through July.
While sales of its newest model, the ForFour, were flat on the year, sales of the diminutive Smart ForTwo declined.
The strong euro, model changeovers and hefty losses at Smart plunged Mercedes Car Group to a rare operating loss of 954 million euros ($1.18 billion) in the first quarter.
The profit collapse at Mercedes prompted an efficiency drive that aims to boost earnings at the division by up to 3.5 billion euros and restore an operating margin of 7 percent by 2007.
Despite taking some 311 million euros in charges in the second quarter of this year to restructure Smart, which does not expect to break even until 2007, the division still managed to make a tiny profit in the second quarter of 12 million.
Daimler has forecast a slight rise in 2005 unit sales at Mercedes Car Group as the division rolls out new models. Earnings should continuously improve following the second quarter.