DaimlerChrysler expects unit sales of its flagship Mercedes Car Group division to be steady in March, chief executive Juergen Schrempp reportedly told the car maker's annual meeting on Wednesday.

"In March, we expect Mercedes-Benz sales to be roughly at the year-ago level, thus more than 100,000 vehicles. This shows a positive trend," he said, according to Reuters.

A spokesman reportedly made it clear Schrempp was referring to the Mercedes Car Group division, which also includes Smart small cars and Maybach limousines.

According to Reuters, Schrempp reiterated that Mercedes-Benz brand unit sales for the full year should rise slightly as new models come onto the market - Mercedes Car Group sales fell 11.6% in February, and a cumulative 9% in the first two months, and the car maker blamed weak markets, problems with faulty diesel pumps and customer restraint ahead of model changeovers for the M-class SUV and S-class luxury sedan.

The rollout of the new M-class and the launch of the B-class sports wagon in western Europe in June are expected to give 2005 sales a boost, the news agency noted.

However, spending to fix quality problems that have dogged Mercedes-Benz cars will weigh on results again this year, DaimlerChrysler chief financial officer Bodo Uebber told the meeting.

"We expect again this year a significant impact on earnings" due to the quality issues, he said, according to Reuters, but was not more specific.