Daimler accelerates electric car program

BERLIN (Reuters) - Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler is accelerating its electric car program, it said on Wednesday after announcing that it had failed to cut fleet emissions in Europe for the first time since 2007.

Daimler put its emissions numbers down to customers increasing preference for sports utility vehicles (SUVs), which tend to be more polluting than sedans, making it more difficult for carmakers to hit a European target for each new car to produce no more than 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer by 2020.

The company said it expects Mercedes-Benz Cars to bring more than 10 new electric cars to market by 2022 through 10 billion euros ($10.8 billion) of investment, having previously aimed to achieve the target by 2025.

Daimler has been set a goal of achieving a European average fleet emissions level of 100 grams for Mercedes-Benz Cars, including its Smart brand, by 2020.

Last year the average fuel emissions remained at 123 grams for Mercedes-Benz Cars, the same level as in 2015. It is the first time since 2007 that it has failed to cut average pollution levels despite the introduction of more fuel efficient engines throughout its range.

Daimler also said it is expecting record sales volumes for the Mercedes-Benz Cars division in the first quarter of the year.

"The positive sales trend continued in March," Daimler said in a statement ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.

The company also reiterated its full-year group sales and earnings targets. The car and truck maker expects a slight increase in earnings and a significant rise in sales of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

(Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach and Edward Taylor; Writing by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Christoph Steitz and David Goodman)

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