vw.automotiveITA new study predicts that Volkswagen Group, which wants to be the world's biggest automaker in terms of unit sales by 2018, could achieve that goal this year already.

Europe's largest automaker has "a good chance" to reach the target in 2014 after selling more cars than Toyota in the first half of the year, according to the "Automotive Performance 2014" report published by Germany's Center of Automotive Management (CAM).

The VW Group, which is comprised of 12 car brands, sold 5.11 million passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in the first six months of the year, compared with 5.02 million units sold by Toyota and 4.92 million by General Motors.

For the full year, CAM projects that VW will sell 10.1 million vehicles, Toyota 10.05 million and GM 10.0 million vehicles. The researchers said that the positions of the brands in core markets such as the US, Europe and China are decisive in determining how big they will be. VW in particular grew 17.5 pc in China, the world's biggest market, in the first half of 2014.

"Auto manufacturers are benefiting in different ways from the basically positive outlook for the global market," said Stefan Bratzel, head of CAM. "Important preconditions for success are a broad market position, an intelligent product diversification strategy and high innovation competence."

A ranking of carmakers by profitability, measured as EBIT as a percentage of sales, showed a different lineup. In the first half, Subaru led the table with an EBIT margin of 13.3 pc, followed by BMW with 12.3 pc.

Volkswagen Group positioned itself in the middle of the table with a margin of 6.3 percent, which was slightly above the industry average of 6.5 pc. But the core VW brand's margin was only 2.1 pc. VW has embarked on a cost-savings plan to shore up the profitability of the brand. By comparison, competitor Toyota posted an EBIT margin of 9.6 pc in the first half, CAM said.