Volkswagen has reported 2008 net profit up 14% to EUR4.75bn. "We met our target and surpassed our record results for 2007 even though conditions were tougher," CEO Martin Winterkorn said in a statement yesterday.

Group sales last year rose 4.5% to 113.8 billion euros.

The VW statement said the group would do better than the sector as a whole in 2009 and would gain market share as the automobile industry struggled through a global crisis.

But it also said that sales and earnings were expected to be lower this year.

The company said it could not give specific guidance for this year.

"High volatility of market developments does not currently permit any reliable forecasts to be made for fiscal year 2009," VW said.

His finance chief has forecast Volkswagen could post a loss in the first quarter amid what will likely be a very bad year for all car companies.

Daimler has forecast a significant operating loss for the first quarter.

But Winterkorn is putting a brave face on things.
 
As he joined pop star Pink on stage in Geneva he proclaimed: "This crisis will really be a shakeout, but the best best days of the automobile are yet to come."
 
Winterkorn emphasised that he is realistic about the challenges ahead. But VW is aggressively targeting the industry's number one spot.
 
"We expect to increase our market share during the recession," Mr Winterkorn says. "But we don't expect to increase our volume."
 
The carmaker is expected to remain profitable through the worst of the downturn this year, making between EUR2bn and EUR3bn in 2009, according to analysts.
 
And it says it will be able to maintain investment in new product and renewing capacity through the recession, unlike some of its less cash-rich competitors.

VW has said it aims to overtake Japanese rival Toyota and become the world's leading auto manufacturer by 2018. 

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