New VW cars are covered with protective covers before loaded for export on a transport ship at the harbour in Emden
New cars of several brands of German carmaker Volkswagen AG are covered with protective covers before they are loaded for export on a transport ship at the harbour of the Volkswagen plant in Emden April 24, 2009. REUTERS

Volkswagen Group's global first-quarter sales surpassed two million vehicles for the first time as North American and Chinese sales rose dramatically, the Germany company announced Friday.

Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen sold 2.16 million cars in the first quarter of 2012, a 9.6 percent increase on the same time last year. The record first-quarter sales were carried by a 12.6 percent increase in March compared with the previous year and strong numbers in North America and China.

The Volkswagen Group developed very well in the first quarter. We produced another strong performance in North America, China and Russia. However, uncertainty continues, particularly on the markets in Western Europe, Christian Klingler, group board member for sales said Friday.

While sales overall in the European market rose modestly for VW, increasing 3.2 percent in the first quarter to 937,000 cars, sales in Western Europe, excluding Germany, plummeted 4.7 percent. Volkswagen did well in its German home market, though, bolstering sales by 5.7 percent to 282,400 cars. The company enjoyed a 35.1 percent increase in sales in Central and Eastern Europe.

Sluggish sales in Europe, though, were more than compensated for by strong sales in the Asia/Pacific region and the Americas. Asia/Pacific sales rose 16.8 percent to 726,100 cars, and sales in China, VW's largest single market, charged up 15.6 percent to 633,900 cars.

The Americas were also a bastion for VW, and the company increased North American deliveries by 24.5 percent to 179,100. U.S. deliveries were up 34 percent. South American deliveries rose 3.9 percent to 229,400 cars.

While Volkswagen Group saw its VW, Audi and SKODA brands each increase sales by more than 10 percent, the company's Spanish SEAT brand struggled, losing 11.6 percent in sales due to the difficult conditions in Western Europe.