DaimlerChrysler's first-quarter sales climbed 10 percent to euro 35 billion ($37.1 billion) and operating profit increased 16 percent to euro 2.77 billion.
The Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep brands contributed operating profits of euro 1.5 billion, up 8 percent, and recorded sales of 836,000, an increase of 10,000 units. The Mercedes-Benz and Smart passenger-car division was the second largest contributor to profits in the first quarter. A new sales record of 243,000 was achieved, up 21 percent on the same period last year. Operating profit rose 4 percent to euro 531 million.
'The first-quarter figures support our confidence for 1999,' said DaimlerChrysler co-chairman Jurgen Schrempp. 'We expect all business units to increase revenues over 1998. We are confident that over the course of the year we will surpass our initial revenue target of euro 137 billion.'
Ford Motor Co.
Ford Motor Co. reported a 20 percent gain in first quarter earnings to a record $1.8 billion, as its core North American auto unit offset lower results overseas. Ford's first quarter revenues rose to $37.9 billion from $36.6 billion. The figures do not include results from Volvo Car, which Ford purchased for $6.45 billion in January.
Ford's automotive operations, including a $165 million gain from the dissolution of its AutoEuropa joint venture with Volkswagen AG, earned $1.65 billion, a 34 percent gain over last year. North American automotive operations reported a profit of $1.6 billion, up 57 percent. But Ford's loss in South America widened to $165 million for the quarter from $45 million a year ago. Europe had a profit of $165 million, but would have broken even without the AutoEuropa gain. Last year Europe earned $230 million. The Visteon auto parts unit had 10 percent higher profits at $208 million.
Volkswagen AG improved sales in the first quarter of 1999, but earnings fell short of expectations. Group sales rose 8 percent to DM35.76 billion (euro 18.1 billion, $19.2 billion). But VW blamed a disappointing 2.9 percent increase in group net profits to DM355 million on a higher tax burden. Analysts had forecast a net profit as high as DM500 million.
The company was cautious in its latest outlook for full-year results. 'Whether the previous year's results can be improved upon over the whole of 1999 will depend on demand in the second half of the year,' VW said in a statement.
In March, the company said it did not expect a fifth consecutive year of double-digit sales growth in 1999. In the first quarter the group sold 1.2 million cars, 9.7 percent more than in the same period the previous year.