Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) overtook Toyota (7203.T) as the world's largest carmaker by sales in the first half, achieving its long-held ambition three years ahead of target.
Japan's biggest automaker said on Tuesday it sold 5.02 million cars between January and June, a 1.5 percent decline on year-ago levels and fewer than the 5.04 million deliveries VW reported on July 17.
Toyota, due to announce first-half earnings next Tuesday, said its six-month sales were dragged down by a slowdown in emerging markets and increased taxes on mini-vehicles in Japan.
Germany's Volkswagen has been pushing scale under Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn's eight-year reign, propelled by adding brands and factories and roaring sales in China.
VW group deliveries, also including premium brands Audi and Porsche, more than doubled to over 10 million last year while profit almost tripled to 12.7 billion euros ($14 billion).
"VW is snatching the sales crown in difficult times with major car markets in decline," said Stefan Bratzel, head of the Center of Automotive Management think-tank near Cologne.
"They will need to withstand the slowdown in China if they want to keep the top spot."
Europe's largest automaker is benefiting from a strengthening recovery in its home region which helps offset slowing deliveries in China, destination of a third of VW group sales including Audi and Porsche.
But after years of pushing volume and acquisitions, VW last year started shifting the focus to boosting earnings quality to help fund growing technology needs and plant upgrades.
Japan's biggest automaker is forecasting global sales of 8.9 million cars for the fiscal year ending March 2016. In its previous fiscal year, Toyota sold 8.97 million cars globally.
Wolfsburg-based VW has a goal of "moderately" raising deliveries from last year's record 10.1 million cars. The group will publish first-half results on Wednesday.