Skyrocketing sales in China are helping Germany's Volkswagen Group steal a lead over its other global automaker rivals, chief executive Martin Winterkorn told CNBC.
Global sales topped 10.2 million vehicles in 2014, helping reach record operating profits of about 17.9 billion euros ($19 billion), which included an estimated 5.2 billion euros contribution with FAW in China. Net profit for the year came 10.9 billion euros, up 19.6 percent on the year before.
With 18 plants across the country, VW is now the number one auto manufacturer in China. Plans are in the works for two more factories that Winterkorn said will help bring production capacity in China to 5 million vehicles in 2018.
"We are very successful indeed in China," Winterkorn told CNBC on Thursday.
"Don't forget that we've been active for more than 30 years in China. We just signed a joint venture contract with FAW for another 25 years, so we are established there, and the Chinese just love this type of continuity, that we've been committed for so long."
Meanwhile, unit sales in Europe were up 5.2 percent from 2013 to 4.4 million vehicles, but were less positive in North America where sales decreased by 2.4%.
The group reported negative currency headwinds, but as the euro nears dollar parity, Winterkorn played down the impact that a weaker euro might have on sales for premium brands.
"We have a long-term hedging and our product and planning decisions are independent of currency exchange rates," he said.
"It's of course an advantage for the brands that export mainly to the US but there are other countries as well, just think of Russia, the ruble, there it becomes more difficult to sell Audis and Porches and Volkswagens."