FRANKFURT (AP) -- Automaker Volkswagen AG said Friday that its first quarter sales slipped 11.4 percent from last year, with declines in the United States offset somewhat by growth in Germany, Russia and China.
The Wolfsburg-based company, Europe's biggest in terms of sales, said it sold 1.39 million cars worldwide in the January-March period compared with 1.57 million a year earlier. The drop was led by the VW brand, which saw sales slip nearly 5 percent to 876,000 compared with 920,200 in the first three months of 2008.
The drop-off was most pronounced in the United States, where demand for new cars has fallen amid uncertainty about the economic crisis. Volkswagen said it sold 58,300 cars there, down 19.3 percent from from the 72,200 sold in the first quarter of 2008.
But the automaker, whose brands include Skoda, Seat, Bentley and Bugatti, reported gains in some markets, including China, where sales rose 6 percent to 284,200 in the quarter.
Russia also proved a bright spot, with sales up 14.1 percent to 25,800 cars sold.
In Germany, the number of cars sold rose 4.5 percent, to 251,500 from 240,700 last year, amid demand for its VW Fox Polo and Tiguan models and its Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza.
Detlef Wittig, the company's head of group sales and market said a popular German car-scrapping plan helped by pushing orders for VW cars up 160,000 by the end of March.
"This demonstrates that the government's measures are having an effect," he said in a statement.
Germany's government decided earlier this month to expand funding for the popular car-scrapping bonus, more than tripling its funding to euro5 billion ($6.6 billion) from the original euro1.5 billion that had been set aside.
The euro2,500 bonus for people who scrap cars at least nine years old and buy new ones was introduced earlier this year in an effort to boost the auto industry -- a key part of Germany's economy, which went into recession last year. It was part of a wider euro50 billion economic stimulus plan.
Shares of Volkswagen were down half a percent to euro235.85 in Frankfurt trading.