Volkswagen AG chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder is confident that, despite predictions of a flat market, world sales of his company’s products will pass the five million-unit mark in 2003.

Volkswagen AG chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder is confident that, despite predictions of a flat market, world sales of his company’s products will pass the five million-unit mark in 2003.

The Wolfsburg-based company announced at the weekend that it had sold 4,98 million vehicles in 2002 (1,9 per cent fewer than in the previous year) but noted it aimed to lift sales again in 2003, helped by a range of new models.

"Our objective is to have a five at the front of our sales figures (in 2003) despite a flat market," Pischetsrieder said. He declined to say how much profit Volkswagen made in 2002 but sources say the company expects to post pre-tax earnings of four billion euros (R35,2 billion) for the year just ended.

"Bullish would be the wrong word but I am confident (about earnings and sales in 2003)," he said. The company is hoping new model launches this year, including the Golf V and a new Touran multi-purpose vehicle based on the Golf platform, will lift sales.

Board member Robert Buechelhofer said he expected the European and US markets to be roughly flat in 2003 after modest declines in 2002 and that growth would come mainly from Asia, especially China where VW is market leader with more than 40 per cent market share.

"But the key thing is the fastest growing segments are the ones we are going into," said Pieschetsrieder, referring to the luxury and the sports utility niches.

As CARtoday.com reported last year, VW has moved upmarket with its new Touareg SUV as well as the Phaeton grand saloon.

Original article from Car