Volkswagen initially targeted 10 million sales by 2018, but cautiously brought its forecast forward to 2015 in response to better-than-expected sales four years ago.
The strength of the group's sales around all of the world's car markets – except South America, where it endured a weak market and ageing product range – has made it possible to hit the target even earlier.
The majority of the Volkswagen Group's brands enjoyed year-on-year global sales increases in 2013. Of the customer car brands, Bentley was the major mover, posting an 18.9 per cent year-on-year improvement to around 10,100 cars. Revitalised Seat expanded its sales by 10.6 per cent to 355,000, while Audi went up by 8.3 per cent to 1.57m. Volkswagen itself underwent a 3.4 per cent year-on-year increase in global sales to 5.93m vehicles.
Sales of Lamborghinis went up by 1.8 per cent to 2100 vehicles. Porsche sold 162,100 cars in 2013, up from 141,000 the previous year and on course to surpass the manufacturer's target of 200,000 annual sales by 2018.
Only Skoda's annual sales fell, with the Czech manufacturer experience a two per cent drop to 920,800 cars. The brand underwent the largest model initiative in the brand's history, notably with the replacement of its core model, the Octavia. Ramping up its production facilities to build the new models resulted in lower vehicle availability and this, combined with the difficult market, were given by the Volkswagen Group as reasons for the decline.
However, Skoda's sales for the first two months of 2014 are up 10.6 per cent year-on-year, and the manufacturer looks set to enjoy a further uplift from the launch of the Fabia and Superb models in the coming months.
Winterkorn warned that the group still faced some challenges in 2014, and highlighted the continuing difficult market environment and fierce competition, as well as interest rate and exchange rate volatility and fluctuations in the prices of raw materials.
He added that future growth would focus on qualitative growth, with an emphasis on developing high-quality products as well as investing in its employees: "The group will systematically pursue its path to the top of the auto industry. We have 12 fascinating brands and 310 models to cover all conceivable customers wants and needs. We have a global presence and can build on the technical expertise of more than 40,000 engineers around the world. In a nutshell, we have everything to achieve our ambitious goals."
Winterkorn said the Volkswagen Group spent €10.2 billion on research and development last year – more than any other manufacturer – and lodged approximately 6000 patent applications, more than any other company. This year and next, the Volkswagen Group plans to launch more than 100 new models and variants across its brands.
An important development for the future, he said, was rolling out VW's strategy of offering a wide range of powertrains across its key models: "We will offer more and more models with the full range of state-of-the-art drivetrain options, from frugal diesels and petrols to full electric vehicles, leaving it to the customer to decide which best suits their needs. We have this complete line-up with the Golf this year, and other models will follow."