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Photograph: Photo by alang7, used under CC BY

Volkswagen AG appears to have become the world's biggest carmaker last year with global sales of more than 10.3 million vehicles, up 3.8 per cent from 2015, according to data issued Tuesday by the German company.

In December, Japan-based Toyota forecast global sales to grow 1 per cent in 2017 to 10.2, putting its 2016 sales were below the VW mark.

Carmakers do not issue fully comparable global sales data, complicating comparisons.

"The fact that we handed over more than 10 million vehicles to customers last year bolsters the group and its brands as we head for the future," Volkswagen Group chief executive Matthias Mueller said.

Volkswagen takes the mantle of the world's largest carmaker despite its ongoing scandal over cheating in diesel emissions.

Some 11 million diesel VW, Audi and Porsche cars sold worldwide through 2015 have 2-litre or 3-litre engines equipped with software that reduces emissions only during testing. Lawsuits and regulatory penalties are expected to made it the most expensive scandal in the history of the automotive industry.

"2016 was a very challenging year for us," Mueller said. "We made strides in resolving and overcoming the diesel crisis and at the same time initiated a fundamental change process ... to get Volkswagen ready for the future of mobility."

Volkswagen expects to introduce nearly 60 new cars across its brands in 2017, with several on display this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

2016 deliveries reached 4.2 million cars in Europe, 4.3 million in the Asia-Pacific region and 975,600 in the Americas.

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