Berlin (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest automaker, said first-quarter profit almost doubled as sales in China and at the Audi luxury brand jumped to a record.
Net income increased to 473 million euros ($633 million) from 243 million euros a year earlier, VW said in a statement today. That compares with the 459 million-euro average estimate of four analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Sales climbed 19 percent to 28.6 billion euros.
Volkswagen, which aims to overtake Toyota Motor Corp. in deliveries and profitability by 2018, forecasts earnings and sales growth this year, a sign that European carmakers are recovering from the financial crisis. Daimler AG earlier this week raised forecasts for its car and truck units. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen today reported a 28 percent jump in first-quarter revenue, beating estimates.
“Growth in the U.S. and China should be able to help Volkswagen increase sales this year,” said Christian Aust, a Munich-based analyst with UniCredit, before the earnings release. “In terms of profit, it will be difficult for it to compensate for a weak second-half in Europe.”
European government scrappage incentives for consumers to trade in older vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones helped Volkswagen boost European deliveries last year, leading to a record 6.29 million cars and sport-utility vehicles sold.
Volkswagen jumped as much as 1.65 euros, or 2.2 percent, to 75.25 euros and traded at 74.97 euros as of 13:35 CET in Frankfurt, valuing the carmaker at 34.4 billion euros.
As scrappage programs are phased out, in Germany alone the market will probably shrink 25 percent to 3 million light vehicles this year, according to forecaster IHS Global Insight. Growth in Asia and North America may lead to a 5 percent rise in global auto sales to 66.7 million cars and light trucks.
During the first quarter, VW group sales including Audi and Czech unit Skoda, rose 25 percent to 1.73 million units, Volkswagen said April 16.
Audi sold 264,100 vehicles, a 26 percent gain, posting its best first-quarter sales ever. The main VW brand rose 27 percent to 1.11 million.
Sales in China climbed 61 percent to a record 457,300 vehicles, while U.S. deliveries advanced 37 percent to 80,000 cars and SUVs.
Volkswagen's brands aim to add 60 models, including upgrades, in 2010 alone. The carmaker rolled out nine vehicles at the Geneva auto show last month, including the Amarok pickup truck and Sharan minivan.
Volkswagen is taking over Porsche SE's automotive operations. VW last week raised about 4.1 billion euros by selling 64.9 million preferred shares at 65 euros each to help fund the takeover.
Group targets for 2018 include a pretax profit that exceeds 8 percent of sales, compared with 1.4 percent in the first three quarters of 2009, as well as a medium-term margin of earnings before interest and taxes of at least 5 percent of revenue, VW said on March 11.
PSA, Europe's second-biggest automaker, said first-quarter revenue jumped 28 percent to 13.99 billion euros on new models and forecast “significant” operating income for the first half. The figure was ahead of analyst expectations of 13 billion euros, according to Bloomberg survey of five analysts.
Daimler, the Stuttgart-based maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, yesterday raised profit forecasts for its car and truck units after reporting preliminary first-quarter earnings before interest and taxes of 1.2 billion euros, beating analyst expectations.