DaimlerChryler's) Mercedes Car Group grew vehicle sales 6.4% in June to 118,800 units, as demand rose for the premium Mercedes-Benz brand.

Meanwhile, Reuters also reported that VW premium brand Audi raised June deliveries 2.7% to nearly 80,000 vehicles and forecast full-year sales of around 880,000.

The reports said Mercedes posted an 8.9% gain in sales to 106,200 vehicles, while Smart, now down to a single two-seat model line, suffered an 11.3% drop in sales to 12,600 cars.

Mercedes Car Group sales are expected to "remain at least in the magnitude of the previous year", DaimlerChrysler reportedly said in a statement, citing a continued weak performance at Smart, though it was more optimistic about Mercedes-Benz, saying the brand's sales grew more strongly than the market in the first half, hitting a record.

"Considering this positive development, we are now expecting sales of the Mercedes-Benz brand for the full year 2006 to be higher than the previous year's figure," Reuters quoted Mercedes head of sales and marketing Klaus Maier as saying.

Smart's first half total was off 20% to 62,000 cars.

Meanwhile, Audi first half deliveries rose 9.8% to almost 463,500 units, with its new Q7 sport utility vehicle contributing some 16,800, Reuters said.

"Audi is therefore clearly on track to achieve its 11th straight year of posting record deliveries. Our target for 2006 is once again to deliver 50,000 more vehicles than in the previous record year," Audi chief executive Martin Winterkorn reportedly said in a statement.

The brand sold 6.4% more units last year, a total of 829,100.

"We see in the USA a volume in the order of magnitude of around 90,000 vehicles in the year 2006," Audi sales and marketing chief Ralph Weyler told Reuters on Thursday.

Weyler reportedly said he wanted the brand to grow profitably in the US despite a price war in the sector.

Reuters noted that Winterkorn said earlier this year that he expected brand sales to rise 6% this year following the launches of the Q7, redesigned TT Coupe roadster and allroad quattro, with revenue growth roughly matching that level, though he has not provided specific figures.