The Volkswagen brand sold a record 6.23m vehicles worldwide in 2017. In China, the largest single market, sales rose 5.9% to 3.2m vehicles.

December sales rose 5.6% to a record 594,100 vehicles.

Jurgen Stackmann, sales chief, said: "We are delighted with the strong demand for our vehicles and with the brand's positive momentum in recent months. We will be stepping up the pace of our offensive even further in 2018 with momentum coming from important new models such as the Polo, T-Roc and Touareg."

At 136,400 units, deliveries in Europe last month were 1.6% higher year on year with strong growth in Belgium (+17.8%) and Denmark (+10.4%) driven by high demand for the Golf and Tiguan.

German sales rose 8.4% to 42,000 units.

"Orders in Germany continue to show a noticeable upward trend, in part attributable to positive momentum from the environmental incentive," VW said.

Sales in North America were 12.3% lower at 51,600 though full year sales rose 5.2%, the first increase since 2013.

South America sales rose 0.4% to 30,200.

Chinese sales increased 12.9% in December and fully year volume, at 3.18m, passed the 3m mark for the first time.