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Mercedes-Benz fourth-quarter profits hit by trade war

Key Points
  • Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, reported its fourth-quarter operating profit fell 22 percent.
  • The German automaker said the trade war and ballooning costs for developing electric and self-driving cars hit profits at Mercedes-Benz cars.
  • Mercedes-Benz said increased tariffs on vehicles imported from the United States to China and delivery stoppages for individual diesel models hit demand and resulted in weaker prices.
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Daimler facing pressure to enhance profitability

Daimler said its fourth-quarter operating profit fell 22 percent as trade wars and ballooning costs for developing electric and self-driving cars hit profits at Mercedes-Benz cars.

Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) dropped to 2.67 billion euros ($3.04 billion) in the fourth quarter, falling behind analyst expectations of 2.92 billion euros.

Mercedes-Benz said increased tariffs on vehicles imported from the United States to China and delivery stoppages for individual diesel models hit demand and resulted in weaker prices.

Speaking to journalists Wednesday, the CEO of Daimler, Dieter Zetsche, said talks with the U.S. government had resulted in the possibility of some investment to the U.S. which would "add to what we had planned anyway."

Zetsche added that Daimler was looking to put together a package with its U.S. manufacturing partners in order to minimize or avoid tariffs.

Daimler said the return on sales at Mercedes-Benz cars fell to 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 9.5 percent in the year-earlier period.

For 2019 Daimler said it expects a slight growth in unit sales, revenue and EBIT.

In November last year Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that he will reach out to Daimler to propose a collaboration on an electric version of Daimler's "Sprinter" van.

Zetsche said Wednesday that talks are ongoing and Tesla may seek to use the van as part of its customer service fleet, although "nothing is decided yet."