The Mercedes Car Group sold 77,300 passenger cars worldwide in the 'vacation' month of August, compared with 83,900 in August 2003.

Model changeovers for three major model lines (SLK, C- and A-class) were blamed for a 5% drop in year to date sales to end August by the Mercedes Car Group of 760,300 units (2003: 797,400).

Mercedes is looking to the redesigned A-class, on sale in Europe from September 10, for a fourth quarter boost.

"The new A-Class is clearly going to get off to a great start," said Joachim Schmidt, head, of sales and marketing. "The more than 50,000 vehicles already ordered have significantly exceeded our expectations - and the vehicles haven't even been presented at the dealerships yet."

Mercedes posted a 9% decline in sales to 69,000 units in August (2003: 76,100), due primarily to model changeovers. Worldwide, 676,100 cars were delivered to customers from January through August, a decline of just under 7% from the first eight months of 2003.

Mercedes-Benz claimed its SLK assumed world market leadership in its segment even before the September launch in its second largest sales market - the US. Sales of the roadster were up 86% through August, to a record 31,900 vehicles. Revised C-class sales of 25,300 units in August, up 4%) were claimed to lead the model's segment worldwide.

Sales of Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the US were up in August by over 2% to 18,000. Year to date, the E-class is up 7% to 36,800, the C-class sedan up 11% to 38,400 units, the CLK up 16% to 14,900 units and the SL up 15% to 9,000.

In China, Mercedes sold 6,300 cars YTD end August, up 39% on the same period in 2003.

Smart increased deliveries by over 7% to 8,300 units in August. A total of 84,200 units were sold YTD through August, an increase of 17% from the first eight months of 2003.

YTD dmand through August in high volume European markets was up 13% in Germany to 29,100 units, while France was up 26% to 7,500 units and the Netherlands 22% up to 2,600 units. Sales in Switzerland increased 53% to 2,700 units, Portugal was up 52% to 1,800 units and Greece, at 1,300 units, was up 70%.

Mercedes said the new Dutch-built forfour has been a key driver of the sharp increase in sales in 2004. In addition to the diesel engine version, which was launched at the end of August, a right-hand drive version for the key British market becomes available this month.