The figure is down on the 9.7 million vehicles Toyota is estimated to have sold over the same period, but there’s a strong chance Volkswagen has surpassed General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] in the race for second.
Both Toyota and GM are yet to announce their 2012 sales.
What’s most impressive is that Volkswagen’s record sales come at time when countries in Europe, still its core market, are facing decade-low sales levels.
“The group developed extremely well in difficult conditions and recorded best sales year ever,” Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said during a press conference at this week's 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
Winterkorn went on to reiterate his company’s stance of becoming the world’s largest automaker by 2018, which, given its recent performance, looks set to occur before that deadline. Of course, the German executive is aware of challenges ahead but is confident Volkswagen has everything it needs to face any of these hurdles.
While many of its rivals are cutting investment as sales numbers and market share shrink, Volkswagen’s individual brands are continuing their investments plans unabated. Audi, for example, only last month announced it was committed to investing 13 billion euros ($17.2 billion) through 2016 on developing new products and technology as well as upgrading and constructing new production facilities.
North America proved one of Volkswagen’s best performing markets. Sales in the North America region increased by 26.2 percent to a new record of 841,500, of which 596,100 were sold in the U.S. alone, a rise of nearly 34.2 percent on 2011’s numbers.
Volkswagen also saw impressive growth in South America, where sales grew 8.2 percent to just over 1 million vehicles.
Back in Europe, Volkswagen’s sales dipped just 0.3 percent to 3.67 million, while in the Asia-Pacific region it registered 3.17 million sales, a rise of 23.3 percent. China remains the automaker’s single biggest market, with sales in the country totaling 2.81 million, a rise of 24.5 percent on the previous year.
Breaking the numbers down by brand, the Volkswagen brand by far was the largest, registering 5.74 million sales worldwide in 2012, up 12.7 percent on the previous year. Audi was the second biggest with 1.46 million sales, up 11.7 percent, while Skoda was third with 939,200 sales, a rise of 6.8 percent on the previous year.
Volkswagen's premium brands Bentley, Porsche and Lamborghini all saw growth in sales in 2012 as well.