Volkswagen will keep its long-term growth targets despite poor January sales, but the company sees no improvement soon in the dire global automotive market.
Detlef Wittig, VW group head of sales and marketing, said the January decline shows there is no improvement in sight in the global economic crisis at the moment.
"Our long-term growth targets remain valid despite the difficult overall conditions," Wittig said in a statement.
VW group aims to catch Toyota as the world's biggest carmaker by unit sales by 2018. Currently, VW is No. 3.
Wittig said VW is well placed to achieve the targets given its young model range and environmental technologies such as its BlueMotion range of fuel-efficient cars; frugal, turbocharged diesel engines and fuel-saving dual-clutch technology.
New model launches in 2009 will also help, Wittig said. VW will launch a new-generation Polo small car at the Geneva auto show in March.
Volkswagen group's global sales fell 21.3 percent to about 382,000 units in January, compared with the same month in 2007.
VW group includes brands such as Audi, Skoda, Seat as well as the core VW brand. Global sales of the VW brand fell 14.1 percent to 246,700 units. VW's January sales fell steeply in key markets such as Europe, the U.S. and China.
In Europe, group sales declined 29.8 percent to 184,000. In the U.S, sales were down 17.3 percent to 17,600. China sales fell 10.9 percent to 83,900.
There was good news in Russia where VW defied a severe market collapse to sell 6,600 new cars in January, 12.7 percent more than in the same month last year.
Brazil, the group's third-largest market after Germany and China, showed a slight 1.3 percent gain to 47,600 units.
German sales declined 17.7 percent to 53,300 but sales of smaller cars such as the VW Golf, Fox, Polo, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia rose year-on-year thanks to a government scrapping incentive.
"Consumer acceptance of the environmental bonus has significantly boosted demand, in particular for small and compact cars," Wittig said. "Delivery figures for these models are all higher than last year."