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Volkswagen sales top new record despite dieselgate crisis

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) – Volkswagen on Tuesday said it had sold 10.3 million cars worldwide last year, a new record for the beleaguered German auto giant despite grappling with a massive emissions cheating scandal.

The VW group, which also includes the brands Audi, Porsche and Skoda, saw sales increase by 3.8 percent on the year, pushing it back over the magical 10-million mark after slipping to 9.93 million in 2015.

The results come as the company’s “dieselgate” crisis is back in the spotlight following the arrest this week of a VW executive in Miami who stands accused of helping to cover up the scandal.

VW admitted in September 2015 to installing “defeat devices” — designed to reduce cars’ emissions of harmful nitrogen oxide when the software detected they were undergoing regulatory tests — in 11 million vehicles worldwide.

The scandal harmed Volkswagen’s reputation and sent its share price plunging, but customers appear to have largely shrugged off the controversy.

Volkswagen has responded to the crisis with a management shake-up and by shifting its focus to clean-energy vehicles, setting out to be the world’s leader in electric cars by 2025.

“2016 was a very challenging year for us. We made strides in resolving and overcoming the diesel crisis and at the same time initiated a fundamental change process,” chief executive Matthias Mueller said in a statement.

Group sales were driven by strong growth in China, where deliveries were up 12 percent. Europe saw growth of four percent.

In the United States, where customers have taken mass legal action to secure compensation from Volkswagen, sales were down 2.8 percent over the year.

Volkswagen’s main rival Toyota has yet to announce its full-year sales figures, but it said last month that it expected to have delivered just over 10 million vehicles worldwide.

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