Mercedes passenger car group blamed unspecified “model cycle-related factors” for sales nose-diving to 76,800 in January 2004 compared to 83,500 in the same month last year.

The Mercedes-Benz brand saw sales fall 10% to 69,700 cars (January 2003: 77,600) but Asian sales rose 6% to a record 7,400. China, unsurprisingly saw the highest growth as deliveries doubled to 1,100.

With a mildly facelifted new model about to be announced, sales of the C-class range fell to 20,200, compared with 24,300 last year.

Mercedes says the launch of the warmed-over C and a completely redesigned SLK roadster will slightly decrease sales during the first half of the year though it expects an improvement in the second half to offset the dip.

New models like the roadster boosted Smart to 7,100 units in January, up from 5,900 a year ago. The company expects to deliver around 50,000 new forfour models this year following the four-seat, five-door hatchback’s European launch in April.