Volkswagen sets new full-year sales record in race for No 1

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — German automaker Volkswagen (VW) posted another annual sales record in 2018 as new SUV models boosted deliveries and the company managed to increase its share in China even as the car market there shrank for the first time in years.

The Wolfsburg-based maker of Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda and other brand name cars sold 10.83 million vehicles, beating its 2017 record of 10.74 million cars by 0.9 per cent.

Marketing head Christian Dahlheim said increasing sales in a global passenger car market that contracted by 1.2 per cent last year was “a great result”.

Dahlheim said the company overcame bottlenecks in getting cars certified under new emission rules that took effect September 1 in Europe. Those difficulties hurt sales in the following months in Europe. The company overcame that with strong increases in South America and Eastern Europe as well as Russia. In the company’s single largest market, China, sales rose 0.5 per cent even as the overall market shrank.

In 2017, Volkswagen contested the title of world’s biggest carmaker with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. The alliance asserted that it was number one with 10.6 million vehicles sold and said Volkswagen inflated its tally by counting trucks. The alliance announces 2018 figures later this month.

Toyota, dethroned by Volkswagen as number one in 2016, has forecast sales of 10.55 million for 2018 but has not released final figures.

The company no longer sets unit sales records as a primary business goal. Taking over the top spot in the global sales race was a target once set by former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who lost his job in 2015 after the company was caught installing software that let cars cheat on US emissions tests. The company paid more than EUR27 billion (more than USD31 billion) in fines and settlements.

Sport-utility vehicles rose from a 12.6 per cent share of Volkswagen sales in 2014 to 23.2 per cent last year. SUVs, which carry higher prices and profit margins than older types of vehicles such as sedans and hatchbacks, have been a strong growth category for automakers. The highest share for Volkswagen was 43 per cent in North America.

The VW logo on a rim. – AP