Volkswagen's first-quarter car sales have overtaken Japan's Toyota group resulting in the embattled German vehicle manufacturer emerging as world's leading carmaker during the first three months of the year, according to data released on Tuesday.
VW's sales rose as strong demand in China and a pickup in the carmaker's key Western European market helped to offset the fallout for the group as a consequence of the exhaust emissions scandal that has engulfed the German car industry.
In the meantime, Toyota suffered a 2.3-per-cent slump in first-quarter sales to 2.46 million compared with the same period in 2015 following disruptions to production earlier this year, the Japanese carmaker said.
VW said earlier this month that first-quarter sales climbed 0.8 per cent to 2.51 million vehicles thanks to a 6.4-per-cent gain in sales in China and a 3.3-per-cent increase in Western Europe.
Based in the northern German city of Wolfsburg, VW has had a long-standing ambition to replace Toyota as the world's biggest carmaker by 2018.
But that was before VW admitted last September that it had cheated on exhaust emissions tests on about 11 million diesel vehicles around the world.
After also topping Toyota's sales in the first half of 2015, VW was finally pushed out of the global top spot by its Japanese rival when the full-year figures were compiled.
While Toyota sold 10.15 million vehicles last year, VW came in second with 9.93 million cars.