Frankfurt (AFP) – Embattled German carmaker Volkswagen said Friday it had sold fewer of its own-brand cars so far this year in the wake of its engine-rigging scandal, but rising demand in China helped soften the blow.
Volkswagen said in a statement that combined sales of all of its 12 different brands edged up by 0.8 percent in the first three months of this year, with solid sales in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region offsetting falling sales in North and South America.
Volkswagen sold 2.508 million vehicles worldwide in the period from January to March, up from 2.488 million a year earlier.
“We achieved solid growth in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region in the first quarter, with China achieving its best start into the year since we entered the market there,” said Volkswagen’s sales chief, Fred Kappler.
Chinese sales grew by 6.4 percent in the three-month period.
European sales were up 3.3 percent and Asia-Pacific sales rose by 4.3 percent, while sales in North America were down 2.1 percent and sales in South America dropped by as much as 27.6 percent.
VW, which aside from its own brand also owns marques such as Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Skoda and SEAT, was plunged into its deepest-ever crisis in September when it emerged it had installed emissions-cheating software into 11 million diesel engines worldwide.
It is currently battling with still incalculable costs from the scandal and is potentially facing many billions of euros in fines and compensation claims.
VW had at one time hoped to overtake Japanese rival Toyota as the world’s biggest carmaker in terms of sales, but the scandal has tarnished its reputation.
Sales of its own VW-brand vehicles appeared to have suffered the most, falling by 1.3 percent in the January-March period to 1.459 million from 1.479 million a year earlier.
“Mixed regional market developments are reflected in our delivery figures,” said Juergen Stackmann, head of sales at the VW brand.
“While Volkswagen Passenger Cars recorded the best delivery performance ever in China in the first quarter, the trend in South America in particular continues to decline,” Stackmann said.
In the group’s home market of Germany, VW delivered a total 138,700 of its own-brand cars to customers in the January-March period, 3.8 percent fewer than a year earlier.
And own-brand sales were down in almost all regions in the first quarter of 2016, particularly in North and South America, the carmaker said.