Mercedes, the luxury brand of German-US auto giant DaimlerChrysler, is to start cutting jobs as early as this year, sources close to the company said on Wednesday. Mercedes plans to reduce its headcount by means of attrition or so-called "natural wastage" where people who leave the company are not replaced, because management has promised unions not to implement any compulsory layoffs until 2012, the source said. Voluntary work reduction schemes would also be used. Talks with employee representatives were ongoing, it added. The source said that reports which put the number of jobs affected at around 5,000 from a total German workforce of 160,000 were realistic. Payments to laid-off workers would knock around 100 million euros ($122 million) off Mercedes earnings, the source estimated. The head of the Mercedes Car Group, Dieter Zetsche, had hinted at possible job cuts at the IAA motor show in Frankfurt.