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," chairman Martin Winterkorn said in a statement.

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.

"Based on the extremely weak business at the beginning of the year, earnings will not reach the high levels of previous years," it added.

VW will present full financial results during a press conference on March 12.

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