Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn can check one thing off his to-do list: beat rivals in profit.

VW aims to become the world's biggest carmaker and a leader in profitability by 2018. The automaker reported record operating income of 11.5 billion euros ($15 billion) for 2012. That surpassed General Motor Co.'s $7.9 billion and Toyota Motor Corp.'s 1.06 trillion yen ($11.1 billion) for the year.

When Winterkorn set the growth targets in 2007, VW didn't look much like a world-beater. It had just gone through a disruptive round of job cuts, its namesake brand was barely breaking even, and Toyota earned about $10 billion more than VW.

Winterkorn vowed to raise pretax profit margins to 8 percent from just 1.7 percent in 2006. And he said VW would boost deliveries to more than 10 million vehicles from 6.2 million in 2007 -- in effect adding the sales of a carmaker almost as big as Hyundai Motor Co.


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