VW group sales up 7% in January as Europe rebounds

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BERLIN (Reuters) -- Volkswagen Group sales grew 7 percent in January, the highest rate in four months, as deliveries in core European markets bounced back, offsetting double-digit declines in the United States and Brazil.

Group sales rose to 798,100 from 749,500 a year ago, the carmaker said in a statement today.

In Europe, where VW Group suffered a sale drop of about 1 percent last year, registrations of vehicles including the Audi luxury brand and Czech division Skoda were up 9 percent last month to 273,700, the automaker said. In western Europe, deliveries rose 6 percent to 146,700, while sales in Germany rose 12 percent to 82,400. In central and eastern Europe, VW reported robust overall growth as deliveries rose 11 percent to 44,500, but in Russia, the region's biggest single market, sales fell 7 percent to 16,100.

"We are seeing the first increases in Europe, above all in western Europe, where the downturn appears to have bottomed out," VW sales chief Christian Klingler said in the statement, adding that this represented "a good start to what will be a challenging year."

VW said last month that while the situation in Europe appeared to be stabilizing, economic uncertainty would continue and challenges in the markets would remain virtually unchanged.

Industry executives and analysts expect a return to low single-digit sales growth in Europe after six years of decline, but they also have said that chronic excess capacity, which has sparked a price war, will continue to dampen carmakers' profitability.

Sales in China rose 16 percent to 344,400 last month, helping to offset a drop of 13 percent in U.S. deliveries to 36,900. In South America, sales plummeted 20 percent to 62,200, with Brazilian deliveries falling 21 percent to 43,600.

Brand sales

VW's brands all increased sales in January, with Skoda posting the biggest volume leap of 17 percent to 80,900.

Audi sales were up 12 percent to 124,900 and volume at the core VW brand increased by 5 percent to 515,700.

Porsche sold 12,200 units, a rise of 1 percent, while sales at Spanish unit Seat rose 0.5 percent to 26,000.

Automotive News Europe contributed to this report

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