AFP, Frankfurt : Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, is set to sell more than 10 million vehicles this year, chief executive Martin Winterkorn said Thursday. “There is a good chance that we will already exceed the ten million deliveries mark this year-four years earlier than originally planned,” Winterkorn told the group’s annual earnings news conference. In 2013, worldwide deliveries rose by 4.9 percent to 9.7 million vehicles, placing VW ahead of US rival General Motors to become the world’s second- biggest car maker after Japan’s Toyota. VW has long set itself a target to become the world’s number one automobile group by 2018. VW “made a healthy start to 2014,” Winterkorn said. In the first two months, about 1.5 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles were delivered worldwide, a year-on- year increase of 4.7 percent. This year and next year, VW-with a wide range of brands including Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Scania and MAN-plans to launch more than 100 new models, successors and product enhancements, he continued. In financial terms, revenues were up 2.2 percent at 197 billion euros in 2013 and operating profit reached a record 11.7 billion euros. Bottom-line profit, on the other hand, fell to 9.1 billion euros from 21.9 billion euros a year earlier, largely because the 2012 figure had been positively impacted by measures in connection with the integration of sports carmaker Porsche. “2013 was an extremely challenging year for European automakers in particular. We weren’t helped either by our home market or by exchange rates. Nevertheless, the Volkswagen group put up a strong showing despite the difficult conditions,” Winterkorn said. And “in light of the company’s continued success, the management board will propose an increased dividend of 4.00 euros per ordinary share and 4.06 euros per preference share,” it said. “Despite the persistently challenging market environment,” Winterkorn said he was “guardedly confident” about business development in the rest of 2014. “We are expecting a moderate increase in deliveries,” he said. Challenges would come from the difficult market environment and fierce competition, as well as interest rate and exchange rate volatility and fluctuations in raw materials prices, Winterkorn said. But more important than the sheer sales volumes, VW is looking to improve the quality of its earnings and raise its pre-tax margin-the proportion of profits to revenues-to at least 8.0 percent in 2018 from 6.3 percent at present. “We’re now focusing even more strongly on the qualitative goals,” said Winterkorn. Investors appeared to welcome the group’s confidence and Volkswagen shares were among the top gainers on the Frankfurt stock exchange on Thursday, adding 2.60 percent in a slightly firmer market.