Scandal-hit Volkswagen sees sales fall 2 percent in 2015

AP News
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Posted: Jan 08, 2016 1:08 PM

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — German automaker Volkswagen says its global sales fell 2 percent last year as it struggled with a scandal over cars it had rigged to evade diesel emissions tests in the U.S.

Sales volume dropped to 9.931 million vehicles from 10.14 million the year before. The scandal became known only in late September, so it could only have affected figures in the last months of the year.

Sales plunged 37 percent in Russia and 38 percent in Brazil as those economies slowed, accounting for much of the overall drop. Weaker sales in China, the source of much of the company's profits, also hurt.

Deliveries rose by 1.2 percent in the United States for the full year, though they fell slightly in December.

The figures announced Friday were for all Volkswagen's brands, including SEAT and Skoda as well as luxury makes Audi and Porsche. The Volkswagen flagship brand saw sales fall a sharper 4.8 percent.

"Delivering almost ten million vehicles is an excellent result, particularly in view of the continued challenging market situation in some regions as well as the diesel issue in the final quarter of last year," CEO Matthias Mueller said in a statement.

In 2014, Volkswagen finished just behind Toyota in the contest for the title of world's largest automaker by sales, while General Motors was third. GM and Toyota announce full-year figures later this month. Volkswagen briefly pulled ahead for the first six months of 2015 but then slipped behind Toyota. The company originally set a goal of passing Toyota by 2018, but since the scandal broke has said it is placing less emphasis on raw sales numbers.

CEO Mueller says the company is working to change its culture to prevent future wrongdoing. The company has commissioned an investigation by U.S. law firm Jones Day.

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Volkswagen, saying it equipped 600,000 cars with software that turned off emissions controls when the vehicle was not on the test stand. Volkswagen says 11 million cars worldwide have the software. It faces billions in potential fines and costs for recalls as well as lost sales.