Daimler has said it returned to profit in the first quarter, raising its full-year forecast on the back of strong Mercedes car sales.

Net profit in the first quarter was EUR612m, which compares with a loss of EUR1.3bn in the year-earlier period.

“This very good result for the first quarter shows that we did our homework in the crisis and are now firmly on track for success once again,” said CEO Dieter Zetsche.

Daimler said that almost all its divisions contributed to the return to profitability, especially its  Mercedes-Benz Cars unit, which notched up an operating profit of EUR806m, up from a loss of EUR1.1bn in the same period last year. Daimler noted strong sales of the E-Class and S-Class ranges.

Daimler raised its forecast for 2010 operating profit to more than EUR4bn from an earlier projection of EUR2.3bn; that compares to an operating loss of EUR1.5bn posted for 2009.

Mercedes-Benz Cars anticipates EBIT of EUR2.5bn-EUR3bn.

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Daimler said that Mercedes-Benz Cars will profit this year from the full availability of the new E-Class models. The new E-Class convertible was launched in the first quarter of 2010. Unit sales will also be boosted by the new super sports car Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and from autumn 2010 by the new generations of the R-Class and the CL-Class.

It also said that from the third quarter, new and ‘particularly efficient’ six- and eight-cylinder gasoline engines will become available.