New launches have spurred Daimler's luxury-car sales to record levels globally this year, eclipsing Volkswagen's Audi, helped by strong Chinese demand for its sport-utility vehicles.
Daimler's luxury-car division Mercedes-Benz beat Audi by 28,474 cars in worldwide sales over the first nine months of the year in what could upset the pecking order among Germany's premium brands.
Mercedes had been trailing Audi since 2011, with both behind leader BMW.
Mercedes-Benz launched the redesigned A-Class compact and the GLC and GLE sport-utility vehicles in September, and its sales in China - the world's biggest car market - jumped 53% in that month.
Audi's sales in the country rose 2.9%.
The strong demand in China, and also in Europe, helped Daimler's third-quarter operating profit jump by almost a third.
Adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) increased to €3.66 billion, it said today, near the €3.76 billiono top-end forecast in a Reuters poll.
The carmaker stuck to its 2015 guidance for a significant gain in deliveries, revenue and operating profit.
In China, Daimler's biggest market for the top-end S-Class Mercedes has narrowed the sales gap with Audi and BMW this year and expects strong demand to continue in the fourth quarter and in 2016, finance chief Bodo Uebber said.
But the Stuttgart-based group scaled back expectations for volume growth in global car markets, saying demand will likely be flat this year because of the recent weakening in China, after previously guiding for growth of about 2%.
Latest economic indicators "reveal a significant increase in uncertainty on the parts of investors and consumers", it said.
Germany's finance ministry said earlier the risks to German industry had risen due to the economic slowdown in China and other emerging markets, as well as uncertainty generated by the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Daimler lowered its sales target for truck operations on weaker emerging markets, saying it now expects a slight increase in truck deliveries rather than a significant gain.