Mercedes-Benz COO warns sales crisis to hurt jobs

SCHWAEBISCH GMUEND, Germany, Oct 20 (Reuters) - The number two executive at Daimler's DAIGn.DE premium brand Mercedes-Benz warned on Monday that a sharp plunge in demand for its luxury cars could lead to job cuts. Mercedes Chief Operating Officer Rainer Schmueckle said the brand was experiencing a "full-blown sales crisis", which would make it cut personnel levels should the weakness continue for a long time.

While it has not yet discussed reduced working hours, it has already cut the number of temporary workers.

As of the end of June, Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Cars division that also includes its Smart badge of microcars employed a staff of 98,000 worldwide.

Daimler reported a 3 percent decline in sales of Mercedes-Benz brand vehicles in September after a disastrous August, when they sank nearly 16 percent.

Mercedes-Benz Cars has pledged to achieve a 10 percent margin in earnings before interest and taxes on average by 2010 at the latest.

Daimler already scaled back its 2008 earnings expectations for Mercedes-Benz Cars in late July, when it published its second-quarter results.

At the time, Daimler said the division should now see EBIT falling in the year instead of rising. Analysts like Commerzbank’s Daniel Schwarz expect another profit warning when the company reports third-quarter results on Thursday. (Reporting by Hendrik Sackmann; Editing by Hans Peters)