Daimler sees further growth opportunities for Mercedes-Benz Cars in terms of unit sales, revenue and earnings in the coming years. Chairman Dieter Zetsche told analysts in Beijing: “From today’s perspective, assuming there is no further downturn of the world economy, we expect Mercedes-Benz Cars to achieve its targeted return on sales of 10% in the second half of 2012 and to maintain it as of full-year 2013.”

Zetsche added: “We expect Mercedes-Benz Cars’ EBIT in the second quarter of this year to be higher than in the first quarter.” The division’s EBIT for the first quarter of 2010 amounted to EUR806m.

In April 2010, Mercedes-Benz Cars sold 12% more vehicles than in the same month of last year, and further substantial growth is also indicated for May and June. There are additional significant advantages in the second quarter from better pricing, a better product mix and the optimised cost structure. Return on sales in the second quarter could therefore also be higher than the first quarter’s 7% while second quarter production of well over 300,000 vehicles will be close to the volumes achieved before the start of the financial and economic crisis.

According to Zetsche, the half-year results cannot be annualised for full-year 2010 because in the second half of this year, Mercedes-Benz Cars will spend more on CO2-related research and development and will have higher capital expenditure for new vehicle models, with a corresponding impact on earnings. “Nonetheless, I can say that Mercedes-Benz Cars’ EBIT for the year 2010 will be at the upper end of our forecast of EUR2.5bn to EUR3bn,” he said.

Zetsche believes China is increasingly becoming the center of gravity of the automotive industry. “China is becoming more and more important also for Daimler. This year, China has already become Mercedes-Benz Cars’ third-largest sales market after Germany and the United States.” The division anticipates sales of more than 100,000 vehicles in China this year (2009: 67,000). China is already the biggest market worldwide for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and R-Class model series.

Due to the increasing importance of the Chinese market, Daimler had for the first time organised a company event for investors and analysts in Beijing.

On Thursday, Moody’s forecast a stronger recovery for the global auto sector than for the economy as a whole in several parts of the world as demand picked up, especially in emerging markets like China and in the United States.

Daimler also plans to invest EUR200m (US$245m) in a new engine factory it wants to build in China starting in 2013, a spokesman for the company told Reuters on Friday.