MUNICH -- Volkswagen Group's global sales jumped 3.8 percent last year as higher demand in China and Europe offset drops in the U.S. and South America.
Full-year deliveries at the multibrand group, including its Audi and Porsche luxury marques, rose to a record 10.3 million, the automaker said in a statement Tuesday. That figure should put VW ahead of Toyota as the world's largest car producer by volume.
VW Group sales for December increased 12 percent to 933,300.
VW CEO Matthias Mueller said in the statement that the automaker had stabilized its business in a "very challenging year."
Mueller said the group is on track for a successful 2017 with its brands launching 60 new or refreshed vehicles, including core models such as the new VW Polo and Touareg, Skoda Yeti, Seat Ibiza, Porsche Cayenne, Audi A8 and Bentley Continental GT.
VW sales are proving resilient despite the diesel emissions scandal which has plunged the company into crisis since it came to light in September 2015.
Group sales rose 12 percent in China last year and 4 percent in Europe. Brazil sales fell 34 percent while U.S. volume dropped 2.6 percent.
Skoda, Seat confident
Among group car brands Skoda's volume rose most in 2016 with a 6.8 percent increase. Porsche sales jumped 5.6 percent, Audi sales were up 3.8 percent, VW brand's volume rose 2.8 percent and Seat's sales increased 2.6 percent. Sales of VW commercial vehicles rose by 11 percent, helped by a strong European LCV market.
Skoda said its 2016 sales were lifted by rising demand in Europe and China and it expects the launch of its new Kodiaq SUV and an upgrade to its Octavia model to bolster its first half. The Octavia and Kodiaq will provide "further positive momentum" for the brand, Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier said in a statement.
Seat said it had its best unit sales result since 2007, boosted by the introduction of its first SUV, the Ateca and higher demand for its best-selling model, the Leon, whose sales rose by 3 percent and its Alhambra, whose sales jumped 14 percent, giving both models their highest ever sales results. In a statement, Seat CEO Luca de Meo said the brand aims to increase volume again this year with the launches of an updated Leon, the fifth-generation Ibiza and the new Arona small SUV.
Toyota below forecast
Toyota said last month it expected to end 2016 with sales of 10.09 million vehicles, slightly below an initial forecast of 10.11 million. The automaker, which has topped delivery rankings for the past four years but trailed VW at mid-year, is expected to report its 2016 deliveries in early February.
NordLB analyst Frank Schwope expects VW will be the world top carmaker this year but said the gap with rivals may shrink as demand in China, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of VW Group sales, may weaken because of plans to reduce or phase out tax breaks for small engine cars. "VW is heavily exposed to possible setbacks in China," Schwope said.
Reuters contributed to this report