FRANKFURT -- Daimler said vehicle sales at its Mercedes-Benz Cars unit rose 5.7 percent to a record 150,430 units in March compared with the same month a year earlier because of strong U.S. demand and small gains in Europe and China.
Mercedes also set a record for first-quarter car sales by increasing its volume 2.8 percent to 350,530 vehicles.
Global sales of Mercedes-brand cars rose 6.5 percent to 139,920 in March, while volume at microcar brand Smart fell 4 percent to 10,510 units. In the first quarter, Mercedes-brand sales rose 3.5 percent to 324,898 while sales at Smart fell 5 percent to 25,632 in the same period.
"With strong gains in the USA and in many new growth markets, we were able to balance out weakening European markets and the [first-quarter] sales decrease in China," Mercedes sales chief Joachim Schmidt said today in a statement.
Mercedes brand's U.S. monthly sales rose 6.5 percent to 24,646 in March, contributing to a 12.5 percent rise to 69,186 in the first quarter.
Sales in China, a key growth market for premium brands, rose 5.4 percent last month to 18,611. Sales through March fell 11.5 percent to 45,440. Mercedes continues to trail rival premium brands BMW and Audi, which are growing much faster in China.
In western Europe, Mercedes' March sales rose 2.5 percent to 64,397, but in the first three months demand fell 0.2 percent to 134,363.
In Germany, monthly sales were down 2.5 percent to 25,282. Deliveries in the first quarter fell 6 percent to 53,144. In Russia, Mercedes set a new record selling 8,595 vehicles last month, a rise of 20.7 percent.
Mercedes said solid volume growth in its new range of compact cars helped boost quarterly sales at the automaker. Deliveries of its A- and B-class compacts jumped 49.4 percent in the first three months, the company said.
Compacts are a key element in Daimler's strategy for Mercedes to retake the top spot in global premium-car sales from BMW by 2020. A third model will joint Mercedes' compact lineup when the CLA four-door coupe hits markets starting April 13.
Reuters contributed to this report