Volkswagen sees tougher markets after flat March sales

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE>, the world's third-largest carmaker, said economic uncertainty in many regions meant car markets were becoming even more difficult, as it posted flat group vehicle sales in March.

The Wolfsburg-based group said deliveries to customers edged up 0.2 percent to 864,500 vehicles last month, as 11 percent higher volumes in China offset weaker demand in Europe.

"Positive momentum was maintained in North America and China. Almost all other regions, however, particularly the markets in Western Europe, remain affected by uncertainty which is in some cases considerable," Volkswagen sales chief Christian Klingler said in a statement.

"The data for March clearly show that the markets are becoming even more difficult," he added.

For the first quarter, volumes rose 5.1 percent to 2.27 million vehicles, driven by a 21 percent gain in China, the group's single largest market.

"In the midterm we are planning to increase the number of dealers to more than 3,000 to get closer to our customers," said Jochem Heizmann, Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group China, in a separate statement.

VW's own brand sold nearly 600,000 vehicles to Chinese customers in the first three months, for a growth rate of 24 percent. Another 100,000 cars were contributed by Audi with almost 58,000 from Skoda.

Volkswagen's ailing Seat brand, which completed its first year in China last month, delivered just 539 cars during the first quarter.

All group sales figures exclude its two European commercial truck brands Scania <SCVb.ST> and MAN <MANG.DE>.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Helen Massy-Beresford)