Daimler is in good shape but “it’s not there yet”, board chairman Dieter Zetsche told shareholders in Berlin.

He said the group sold more vehicles in the first three months of 2012 than in the same period last year, up 12% to more than 340,000 units. Growth drivers have been the C- and S-class lines and SUVs with strong demand also for the new B-class. Although so far only available in Europe, over 35,000 B-Class models have been delivered and the second plant just opened in Hungary.

Zetsche said he expected global markets to grow by 4% this year.

"At Mercedes, we're on a roll, and we want to beat that."

Daimler Trucks was also successful with its strong product portfolio; according to preliminary figures, it sold about 107,000 vehicles from January through March of this year, up 20%. Daimler Buses sold about 5,000 units in the first quarter, lower than last year.

Zetsche affirmed the forecasts for 2012: the group expects total unit sales to increase significantly along with further revenue growth.

Zetsche said: "The question is not whether this growth will take place but how it can be made sustainable."

He added that innovation has the potential to convert growth into prosperity.

"Where that occurs, growth will be ecologically compatible and productive for both society and the economy."

He said the Mercedes-Benz brand aims to reclaim its position as the leading manufacturer of premium cars while Daimler Trucks intends to defend its number one position.

Zetsche also said that in terms of CO2 emissions, Mercedes-Benz Cars' fleet has been reduced within two vehicle generations by 35% to an average of 150g/km. A fleet average of 125g/km is to be achieved by 2016.