Porsche remains the world's most profitable car maker, after reporting a surge in earnings during the second half of 2002 to €185 million (£123 million; $US199 million), up by 18% year on year, the BBC reported.

Sales were up almost 20%, reflecting a rash of new product launches from Porsche in the past year, the BBC said.

The BBC said that the sales figure indicated that Porsche was selling more premium-priced vehicles, a key target as it seeks to phase out some of its more established models.

According to the BBC, Porsche is in the process of shifting its once-tight focus on pure sports cars and last year  launched its first four-wheel-drive vehicle, the Cayenne, saying it hoped that it would become its main earner in years to come.

The BBC said the older 911 and Boxster sports cars are selling weakly and that the latest figures indicate that Porsche is having some success at shifting customers to more high-priced vehicles.

But, the BBC noted, some analysts are concerned that expectations for the Cayenne may too high, pointing out that the key US market seems to be tiring of the bigger four-wheel drive SUVs.