Volkswagen's chief executive apologized on Thursday for delays in fixing vehicles in Germany equipped with software aimed at cheating on exhaust tests, underlining the hurdles facing the carmaker in its battle to overcome the emissions scandal.

"We are not as ready as we would like," Matthias Mueller said at the German carmaker's annual press conference, noting that the planned recall of Passat diesel models had been hit by delays.

VW last week unveiled the biggest loss in its corporate history after being forced to more than double its provisions to about 16.2 billion euros (18.3 billion dollars) to help pay the bills for the emissions scandal that emerged last year.

After posting a 10.85-billion-euro profit in 2014, VW reported a 1.58-billion-euro net loss last year after it admitted in September to installing software to manipulate emissions tests in about 11 million vehicles around the world.

The release of the group's key financial data from 2015 came after the company had hammered out a settlement with US authorities to compensate US owners of diesel cars equipped with the software.

Mueller said that he had apologized to US President Barack Obama for the emissions-rigging scandal. The two met recently at the industrial trade fair in Hanover, Germany.

But Mueller insisted that "Volkswagen is more than crisis."

"The Volkswagen group is robust enough to withstand this financial burden," Mueller told the press conference, which was held in VW's sprawling headquarters in the northern German city of Wolfsburg.

Despite the emissions scandal crisis, VW overtook Japan's Toyota Motor Corp to become the world's biggest carmaker by sales in the first three months of 2016, helped by a strong performance of the German group's business in China.

VW's earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in China climbed to 5.21 billion euros last year, compared with 5.18 billion euros in 2014, the company said.

Last year, VW sold more than 3.5 million vehicles in China, making it the carmaker's key market.

"We will do everything to maintain our position in China in the face of increasingly competition," Mueller said.

VW said it is planning to invest more than 4 billion euros this year alone in China, which is also the world's biggest car market.

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