WOLFSBURG (dpa-AFX) - The Volkswagen Group has made a weaker start to the new year due to problems in China and model launches. Sales fell by one percent to just under 75.5 billion euros, as the Wolfsburg-based company announced on Tuesday. The operating result fell by a fifth to 4.59 billion euros. The corresponding operating margin fell by 1.4 percentage points to 6.1 percent and was thus below the targets for the year as a whole, as already announced by management. Analysts had expected slightly lower losses. Group profit after tax fell by almost 22 percent to 3.71 billion euros. The management around CEO Oliver Blume confirmed the annual forecasts.

VW attributed the weaker operating result to lower sales volumes, a less favorable sales mix for brands and models as well as higher fixed costs. The market launch of new models at Porsche, a pearl of profitability, and delivery bottlenecks at Audi weighed on the Group figures. In contrast, the Group with the mass brands VW Passenger Cars, Seat, Skoda and VWN earned more than a year earlier.

"A strong March, the solid order situation and the improving order intake in recent months are encouraging and should already have a positive effect in the second quarter," said VW CFO Arno Antlitz according to the press release. According to him, the savings and earnings programs in the Group's brands should gradually take effect over the course of the year. "In this context, it is crucial to decisively counteract the increased fixed costs and to invest in a disciplined manner," said the manager./men/ngu