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DC sticks to its sales forecast despite slump

DaimlerChrysler has stuck to its forecast for 2004 sales growth at the prestigious Mercedes Car Group, even though sales at its flagship auto division fell in August for the seventh month this year.

Turnover fell 7.8% against August 2003 to 77,300 units as rising smart brand sales were unable to offset a decline in Mercedes-Benz cars.

Divisional sales declined 4.7% in the first eight months of 2004 to 760,300 vehicles, the company said on Monday, citing disruptive model changeovers this year.

The world's fifth-biggest carmaker said it expected a sales boost in the fourth quarter from its revamped A-class small car, which arrives in dealer showrooms this month. Orders for the A-class have already surpassed the 50,000 cars it aimed to sell in 2004.

"We confirm the outlook," a spokeswoman said, reiterating that Mercedes-Benz sales should come in near the 2003 level of 1.1 million while turnover of the smart series could hit 175,000, thanks in part to the new smart forfour four-passenger version.

Turnover of Mercedes brand vehicles slipped 9.3% in August to 69,000 units, while smart sales rose 7.3% to 8,300 units.

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