Volkswagen Group full year 2019 sales rose EUR16.8bn to EUR252.6bn and operating profit – before special items – rose to EUR19.3 from EUR17.1bn in 2018.

At 7.6% (7.3%), the operating return on sales, again before special items, slightly bettered the forecast range for 2019.

Operating profit also rose from EUR13.9bn to EUR17bn.

Negative special items in connection with the dieselgate scandal were lower at EUR2.3bn versus EUR3.2bn in 2018.

The automaker’s shareholders should see a higher dividend of EUR6.50 compared to EUR4.80 last year.

Finance chief Frank Witter said “financially we are still very robust. We expect a continuously challenging market environment this year. Consequently, achieving our ambitious targets will require a major effort”.

Unit sales inched up 1.3% rose to 10.97m units with growth seen in Europe and South America and slight declines in North America and Asia-Pacific. VW claimed, nonetheless, group market share rose in “almost all regions”.

Higher unit sales, better model range and good performance by financial services positively boosted revenue but exchange rates had an opposing effect.

Profit before tax improved 17.3% to EUR 18.4bn and the return on sales before tax increased to 7.3% from 6.6%.

Despite “challenges” in China, the JVs’ operating profit contribution was EUR4.4bn versus EUR4.6bn in 2018.