The Volkswagen Group again kept its word last year: despite an increasingly tough environment, we achieved our main goals and beat the record unit sales, sales revenue and earnings figures set in 2007.
Our nine Group brands delivered 6.3 million vehicles to their customers worldwide – corresponding to growth of 1.1 percent. We lifted , to which the Financial Services Division also made a significant contribution, by 3.0 percent to € 6.3 billion. In the light of this, we are proposing a of € 1.93 for ordinary shares and € 1.99 for preferred shares.
Looking to the stock markets, 2008 was certainly an exceptional year for Volkswagen, although the performance of our ordinary and preferred shares differed sharply. 2008 was also an eventful year in other respects: the automotive industry was hit by the full force of the financial and economic crisis in the fourth quarter. Markets have slumped worldwide – and there is no end in sight to the crisis. Our Group performed better than our competitors in this environment, as is illustrated by the fact that we were able to gain additional in many regions.
Of course, Volkswagen is also facing huge challenges in 2009. Our goal is to lead the Group through this difficult phase safely and with a sense of proportion, although we do not know today how long it will last. Applying the strictest discipline to managing investments and current costs, systematically adjusting production to reflect market developments and leveraging all available flexibility options to safeguard our core workforce will help us achieve this objective.
The Volkswagen Group is a strong business: financially, we rest on solid foundations. Today, we offer our customers the youngest, most attractive and most efficient range of in the Group’s history. Good examples are vehicles such as the sixth generation of the Volkswagen Golf, the new Audi Q5, the SEAT Ibiza and the Škoda Superb, which we launched with great success in 2008. And, last but not least, we can rely on a motivated, . My colleagues on the Board of Management and I would like to express our sincere thanks to all employees for their tremendous commitment, without which our many successes in the past year would not have been possible.
These are all good reasons why the Volkswagen Group can emerge stronger and more powerful from the current crisis. A key factor is that we will continue to invest selectively in the future of the Company a part of our : in attractive new models and pioneering environmental technologies such as ever more fuel-efficient combustion engines, hybrid and electric vehicles, and second-generation biofuels.
Our mission remains the same: going forward, the Volkswagen Group will continue to act responsibly in the interests of its customers, shareholders, employees and society. For us, economic success, an intact environment and social responsibility are inseparably linked. That is also why the Group remains committed to the United Nations Global Compact.
2009 will be a very difficult year for the Volkswagen Group. Nonetheless, I am confident that our Company brings with it all the conditions necessary to continue its profitable growth path in the long term. I would like to thank you for your trust and support last year, and I hope that you will continue to accompany the Volkswagen Group on its way to the top of the automotive industry.
Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn