Volkswagen said on Jan. 17 that it sold a record number of vehicles in 2017, putting it on track to hold on to the title of world's largest carmaker two years after its "dieselgate" emissions scandal.
Some 10.74 million vehicles from VW or its subsidiaries ranging from Porsche and Audi to Skoda and Seat rolled out of dealerships last year -- an increase of 4.3% over the previous year, the carmaker said.
"We are grateful to our customers for the trust these figures reflect," chief executive Matthias Mueller said.
VW's sales look likely to outstrip Japanese rival Toyota's, whose annual figure for last year is expected to stand at around 10.35 million units.
Nevertheless, the Wolfsburg-based 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 last year.
"The alliance is the world's biggest carmaker, 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 last year and US sales rising 5.8% to 625,000 vehicles.
Growth was more spectacular 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 by 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 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.
Truckmaking 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 34 billion euros (US$41 billion) in future vehicles and technologies -- such as electric and hybrid cars, autonomous driving and digitalization -- by 2022.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2018