VW welcomes Porsche takeover while thinking global

VW welcomes Porsche takeover while thinking global
Germany's Volkswagen, Europe's biggest car company, vowed Thursday to become "the best auto manufacturer in the world" and welcomed a looming takeover by luxury carmaker Porsche.

VW also said that early 2008 sales underpinned a trend that saw the group post record results last year, while chairman Martin Winterkorn told reporters at VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg that “we are pleased” Porsche planned to raise its VW holding to more than 50 percent from around 31 percent at present.

“The Piech and Porsche families have written automobile history. They have been closely associated with the Volkswagen group for a long time,” Winterkorn said in reference also to Ferdinand Piech, a former VW boss who currently heads the Porsche supervisory board.

“A new automobile enterprise is now taking shape that will open an entirely new era,” Winterkorn stressed. “Our competitors understand the enormous potential of this partnership.”

“We know a player is emerging here that with its reach, its profitability and and its innovative force, will be the best auto manufacturer in the world.”

Porsche’s pending takeover of VW has been strongly opposed by unions who fear VW workers will lose considerable influence over the combined group. Meanwhile, the German auto giant forecast improved sales and operating profit this year from the record levels reached in 2007.

In January and February, sales of all VW brands had already gained 10.5 percent to 952,000 units, on strong results from VW vehicles, which gained 12 percent, the Czech-made Skoda, up by 18 percent, and utility vehicles which advanced by 18 percent as well, according to figures released at a press conference.

Sales early last year had been hampered however by a marked increase in the German value-added tax. But the numbers allowed VW to reaffirm its goal of increasing 2008 sales and operating profit, the company said, without providing detailed figures.

VW is counting on stronger results from emerging economies, while markets in western Europe and the United States were expected to stagnate.

For 2007, VW had already posted in late February an 50 percent jump in net profit to €4.1 billion and launched its “Strategy 2018” plan aimed at passing Japanese rival Toyota and becoming the world’s biggest auto manufacturer by that date.

Pre-tax profit, the group’s benchmark, had shot past its target of €5.1 billion to €6.5 billion last year.

All of VW’s eight brands posted positive results, the company said on Thursday, including the weaker Spanish Seat division, which turned in a small operating profit of €8 million.

Audi, the group’s high-end line, contributed €2.7 billion to the overall results.