BERLIN -- Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz said on Friday it had achieved record sales in 2012, driven by accelerating growth in China and the United States.

About 1.3 million Mercedes-Benz cars were purchased in 2012, the firm said in its annual sales release, a gain of 4.7% on the previous year.

With 274,134 cars sold in the United States (a gain of 11.8%), this overtook Germany (261,084 cars sold) as Mercedes-Benz's main sales market.

Nearly 200,000 Mercedes were sold in China, a gain of 1.5%.

"We are very pleased with our sales for the full year 2012," said Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of automaker Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz.

"Despite the difficult market environment in the southern European countries and numerous model change-overs, we managed to exceed the previous year's sale record," added Zetsche.

However, the wider Daimler company has suffered from a difficult environment for the auto industry and was forced to cut its full-year forecasts in October after a disappointing third quarter.

Daimler said it was hoping to cut some 2.0 billion euros (US$2.6 billion) in costs by 2014.

Official data published on Thursday showed that new car registrations in Germany fell by nearly three percent last year. About 3.10 million new cars were registered in 2012, down from 3.17 million in 2011, the auto industry federation VDA said in its annual report. It said the sector had suffered a particularly sharp decline in December, of 16%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013