Car sales at the German Daimler Group slumped in September due to logistical difficulties associated with the introduction of new exhaust system-testing procedures, the Stuttgart-based company announced on Monday.
Mercedes-Benz, Daimler's flagship brand, sold 202,819 vehicles worldwide in September, marking a decline of 8.2 percent compared with the same period last year.
The slump measured last month was less pronounced compared to a slight annual decline of 0.1 percent to 1,175,087 million sales throughout the first nine months of 2018. Combined with a 15 percent fall at the group's Smart brand to 10,850, Daimler witnessed an overall decline in corporate sales of 0.4 percent to 1.8 million vehicles.
The poor performance in September was largely attributed to the new Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), which became legally-binding in the European Union (EU) as of Sept. 1. Daimler told the press that it successfully certified its entire fleet for Europe according to the WLTP standard but was still unable to "fulfill all customers' wishes already in September" for new vehicle deliveries.
Aside from WLTP-related woes, Daimler said that unusually high unit sales in September 2017 and model changes had also contributed to the more than 8 percent decline measured last month.
"I am delighted that Mercedes-Benz has maintained the high level of prior-year sales in the first nine months of the year despite the challenges we faced in the third quarter," Britta Seeger, a member of Daimler's managing board responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing and Sales, said.
In Europe, Mercedes-Benz sold 91,609 vehicles in September (minus 9.4 percent) and a total of 688,956 units in the first nine months of the year (minus 4.7 percent). In Germany, the company's home market, Mercedes-Benz delivered 22,780 cars (minus 16.7 percent) and 217,943 in the period from January until September (minus 5.6 percent).
By contrast, Daimler sales reached a new record of 714,598 units in the first nine months of 2018 (plus 8.1 percent) in the Asia-Pacific region. In China specifically, the automotive firm's single largest national market, a new record was set for a September with sales of 54,632 cars (plus 6.9 percent). With a total of 500,707, more vehicles than ever before were delivered to Chinese customers during the first nine months of the year (plus 13.1 percent).
Earlier, technological changes required to fulfil the WLTP standards led Daimler to issue a profit warning for 2018. In 2017, the publicly-listed company, in which the Chinese automotive entrepreneur Li Shufu owns a 9.7 percent stake as its biggest individual investor, achieved gross revenue of 164.3 billion euros (188.4 billion U.S. dollars).