VW managed to surpass its rivals, GM and Toyota, with a profit of 11.5 billion euro ($15 billion) for 2012.

VW, which vowed to become the world’s biggest automaker by 2018, managed to surpass its rivals with a profit of $15 billion euro in 2012, compared with GM’s $7.9 billion and Toyota’s $11.1 billion. CEO Winterkorn set the growth targets in 2007, a period when the German automaker didn’t look at all like a world-beater. Winterkorn promised he will increase pretax profit margins to 8% from only 1.7% in 2006 and boost deliveries to more than 10 million units from 6.2 million in 2007.

“It’s been a master class in execution,” said Max Warburton, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein in Singapore. “Of course there are always elements of luck with corporate plans like this, but mostly they’ve just gone out and done what they said they wanted to do with good products and increasingly competitive prices.”

A major role in this year’s race will rest upon the currency fluctuations, with the weak yen helping Toyota rebound from natural disasters and product recalls to an expected 1.7 trillion yen operating profit this year. At the actual exchange rates analysts’ estimate that Toyota will reach a profit of $17.9 billion, VW $17.3 billion and GM $7 billion.


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