VW sees bumpy road after record 2012 sales

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 11:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 4:10am

Volkswagen prepares for tougher competition and more uncertainties as Europe's largest carmaker pushes for growth in the United States and China to offset slumping demand in its home region.

Deliveries rose 11 per cent last year to 9.07 million vehicles, the German company said yesterday. With these gains, the maker of VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles has increased annual deliveries 44 per cent since 2009.

Last year "was the best sales year ever", chief executive Martin Winterkorn said. "This is another big step forward in our strategy."

By expanding in the US and China, Volkswagen has largely shrugged off the effects of the debt crisis on European car demand, which has dropped more than 20 per cent since its 2007 peak.

The manufacturer's ability to continue to grow will be challenged by slowing sales in Germany. Industrywide, registrations in Volkswagen's home market tumbled 16 per cent last month, leading to a 2.9 per cent decline for the full year.

"We are still keeping a vigilant eye on the future because the present uncertainties will intensify this year, particularly in western Europe," said Christian Klingler, Volkswagen's head of sales.

Volkswagen said earlier that the company would increase sales further this year and top the operating profit achieved the year earlier.

Volkswagen's growth last year was paced by the Audi luxury brand. Sales at the carmaker's biggest earnings contributor rose 12 per cent to 1.46 million cars and sport-utility vehicles.

Sales at sports carmaker Porsche, which was fully integrated into the company in August, increased 19 per cent to 141,075 vehicles, also a record. All regions posted more than 10 per cent growth.

Volkswagen's deliveries this year may stagnate, according to IHS Automotive, with Daimler's Mercedes-Benz set to gain ground, helped by the refreshed E and S-class sedans.

The company's total sales are forecast to edge 0.7 per cent higher to 9.15 million vehicles, its slowest growth pace since the financial crunch in 2009.