Volkswagen hits record sales in bid to top auto industry

FRANKFURT — Volkswagen has announced record annual sales that could determine whether it keeps its crown as the world's largest automaker.

The company based in Wolfsburg, Germany, said Tuesday that it delivered 10.97 million vehicles in 2019. That compares with 10.83 million in 2018, when Volkswagen edged out the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance and Toyota, although the alliance was slightly ahead when trucks are removed from the totals.

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The alliance and Toyota will report their figures in coming weeks. Toyota in December estimated its 2019 total would be 10.72 million, which would leave it behind Volkswagen.

General Motors held the title for more than seven decades before losing it to Toyota in 2008 and no longer has a shot at the top spot after selling its European business and closing other money-losing operations.

Volkswagen underlines that it does not set being the sales leader as a business goal but focuses instead on its financial results. The company's diesel scandal, in which it rigged cars to cheat on pollution emissions tests, came amid a push under former CEO Martin Winterkorn to dethrone Toyota as No. 1 in sales. The company has since pivoted in the wake of the 2015 scandal toward electric cars as the industry seeks to meet tougher limits on greenhouse gases.

Volkswagen was able to increase sales despite shrinking global auto markets. That means its market share increased against the competition. Sales were boosted by strong results in its home market in Germany, the U.S. and in Brazil, while sales slipped in the Asia-Pacific region.

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