Matthias Mueller. Picture: REUTERS
Matthias Mueller. Picture: REUTERS

Frankfurt am Main — Germany’s Volkswagen (VW) said on Wednesday it sold a record number of vehicles in 2017, putting it on track to hold on to the title of world’s largest car maker two years after its "dieselgate" emissions scandal.

A total of 10.74-million vehicles from VW or its subsidiaries ranging from Porsche and Audi to Skoda and Seat, rolled out of dealerships in 2017 — an increase of 4.3% over the previous year, the carmaker said.

"We are grateful to our customers for the trust these figures reflect," CEO Matthias Mueller said in a statement.

VW’s sales look likely to outstrip Japanese rival Toyota’s, whose annual figure for 2017 is expected to stand at about 10.35-million units.

Nevertheless, the group is still facing a growing challenge from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, which also laid claim to the top spot on Wednesday. Its chief, Carlos Ghosn, told the French national assembly that, excluding trucks, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi sold 10.6-million vehicles worldwide in 2017.

"The alliance is the world’s biggest car maker, that’s just been confirmed," Ghosn said, arguing that the VW figure included 200,000 heavy trucks, which shouldn’t be included in the total.

VW’s strong performance underlines its recovery from the blow it was dealt two years ago, when it admitted in September 2015 to cheating regulators’ emissions tests on millions of diesel cars worldwide.

It has since begun to rebuild its reputation in some of the world’s most important markets, with Chinese sales adding 5.1% to 4.2-million vehicles in 2017 and US sales rising 5.8% to 625,000 vehicles.

Growth was more impressive in South America, at 23.7%, but sales only reached 522,000 units in absolute terms.

Meanwhile, sales in Central and Eastern Europe including Russia rose 13.2% to 745,000 vehicles.

But growth in Western Europe was more sluggish, with shipments up 1.4% at 3.6-million units.

Looking to the group’s different brands, generalist VW booked an increase of 4.2% to 6.2-million units, while Skoda added 6.6% to 1.2-million and Seat 14.6% to 468,000 units. Luxury brand Porsche shipped 246,000 cars, up 3.6% on the year, while Audi fell behind high-end rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz with 0.6% growth to 1.9-million vehicles sold.

Truck-making units Man and Scania both reported 11.6% growth.

Looking to the future, Mueller said VW was making "decisive investments in the mobility of tomorrow".

VW announced in November that it would invest more than €34bn in future vehicles and technologies — such as electric and hybrid cars, autonomous driving and digitalisation — by 2022.


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