Volkswagen sets sales record in 2018 despite headwinds

Even issues such as the WLTP emissions regulations in Europe and economic uncertainty in China weren't enough to slow it down

In 2017 VW Group posted a monster sales year with 10.7m vehicles delivered, making it one of the largest automakers in the world. But not the largest. That honor went to the Renault-Nissan Alliance, whose acquisition of Mitsubishi helped place it at number one. In 2018, however Volkswagen has struck back with 10.83m vehicles delivered worldwide, a new all-time record for any automaker.

VW attributes its record sales year to growth and market share gains in South America, Europe, the USA, and China, specifically due to strong SUVs demand. With an onslaught of new models from its Volkswagen, Skoda, Seat, Porsche, and Lamborghini brands, the VW Group was able to overcome various economic risks in various regions and managed to increase sales by 7% compared to 2017. The only dark cloud came from high-end Audi, whose sales slumped by 3.5%.

"Even though setting new records is no longer our primary goal, we are very pleased about this great result. Especially in the second half, things were not easy for us in 2018. It was possible to achieve this new deliveries record for the Group thanks to a combination of outstanding products and the high level of trust placed in us by our customers," Dr. Christian Dahlheim, head of Volkswagen Group Sales commented.

The achievement of VW Group comes despite one of the biggest headwinds for automakers last year  - European Union's tough new WLTP emissions tests, which were spurred by the "Dieselgate" scandal. A scramble to get ready for the more complex tests from September led to production bottlenecks and a fierce price war to shift non-compliant models at  several carmakers, Volkswagen chief among them. VW also had to grapple with "general economic uncertainty" in China, where a tit-for-tat tariffs spat with the US has weighed on growth, particularly in the last half of 2018. 

"The reluctance to buy on the part of consumers had a negative impact on the entire automobile market" in China, Dahlheim said, but the group nevertheless saw a "slight" sales increase there over the full year.

In regard to 2019 VW stressed it was looking to the future "with optimism" but warned of challenges ahead.

"In view of volatile geopolitical developments, our business will face an equally strong headwind in 2019," Dahlheim confessed.

Meanwhile, fellow German car titan BMW also announced record annual sales on Friday of 2.49m vehicles worldwide, up 1.1% on the previous year. Growth was driven by the luxury BMW and Rolls-Royce brands, which both reported their best-ever figures and more than offset a drop in sales at the smaller MINI subsidiary. In a statement BMW said it expected sales to grow "slightly" in 2019 even as market conditions would "remain challenging"

Similar articles