Volkswagen reported higher than expected first-quarter profit due to higher earnings at the Audi luxury brand.

Operating profit was up 10% to 3.21 billion euro from 2.91 billion euro in 2011. The figure beat the 2.66 billion euro average predicted by nine analysts in a survey by Bloomberg. Sales were up 26% to 47.3 billion euro and the shares rose the most in five months.

“It’s a very strong beat and flies in the face of the bearish mass-market view,” said David Arnold, a sales specialist at Credit Suisse Group AG in London. “VW just keeps printing money.”

The Skoda and Seat brands also increased with 9.6% to 2.16 million vehicles, the gains being compared with revenue declines at PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault SA. Audi’s profit surged 27% to 1.4 billion euro in the first quarter, boosted by demand for top-of-the-line A6 and A8 sedans. But the company’s earning were also influenced by the 223 million euro profit German truckmaker MAN. Volkswagen is set to target the 2011 record operating profit of 11.3 billion euro.

“The outlook seems conservative after the first quarter, which should have been the toughest this year,” said Juergen Pieper, a Bankhaus Metzler analyst in Frankfurt. “The results are very strong.”


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