BERLIN Despite the Dieselgate emissions scandal which has rocked Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), the German carmaker achieved record group sales in 2016 of 10.3 million vehicles, including a 12 percent jump in December.
That figure should put VW ahead of Japanese rival Toyota (7203.T) as the world's largest car producer by volume.
VW sales are proving resilient despite the diesel emissions scandal which has plunged the company into crisis since it came to light in September 2015.
VW faces a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency seen potentially costing as much as $4 billion to resolve civil and criminal investigations into the scandal, which sources have told Reuters could be announced as soon as Wednesday.
On Monday, the company suffered a fresh setback when an executive was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States over the diesel emissions cheating and the company was accused of concealing the matter from regulators.
Despite those challenges, however, VW on Tuesday reported a strong finish to 2016.
December deliveries including its Audi and Porsche luxury brands rose to 933,300 vehicles from 834,700 a year earlier, with double-digit gains in China and the United States offsetting declines in Germany and Brazil.
Its full-year deliveries rose 3.8 percent from 9.93 million in 2015, the company said.
Toyota said last month it expected to end 2016 with sales of 10.09 million vehicles, slightly below an initial forecast of 10.11 million. [nL4N1EA2NK]
The Japanese rival, which has topped delivery rankings for the past four years but trailed VW at mid-year, is expected to report its 2016 deliveries in early February.
NordLB analyst Frank Schwope expects VW to be able to keep the world top carmaker crown this year but said the gap with rivals may shrink as demand in China, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of VW group sales, may weaken because of plans to reduce or phase out tax breaks for small engine cars.
"VW is heavily exposed to possible setbacks in China," said Schwope who has a "Hold" recommendation on VW shares.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; editing by Jason Neely and Keith Weir)