Volkswagen AG's Czech-based Skoda Auto reported a 44% rise in yearly net profit on Thursday, driven by strong sales.

Reuters reported that Skoda said it wanted to sell at least 700,000 vehicles this year, up from 630,000 in 2007 thanks to a growth in central and eastern Europe which helped make up for stagnant west European markets.

"We raised unit sales by almost 18 percent in the first two months and March is also looking good," Skoda head of sales and marketing Fred Kappler told a news conference. "Our minimum target for this year is 700,000 units."

However, the company also cautioned that this year the record high Czech currency and high commodity prices would weigh on its bottom line.

Reuters reported that in 2007 the carmaker earned 16.0 billion Czech crowns (USD980m).

Skoda relies on its workhorse models Fabia and Octavia for a bulk of its sales, but has enjoyed rising demand for the Roomster, which it targets at younger drivers.