FRANKFURT -- Porsche AG said on Monday it could not rule out a downturn in vehicle sales due to a possible war in Iraq but stuck to a prediction it would sell 65,000 cars in 2002/2003.
"The effects of a possible escalation of the Iraq conflict on the market are hard to judge," the world's most profitable carmaker said in a statement. "For this reason negative effects on the business development and on the unit sales cannot be ruled out."
Porsche has made more money in the past three years than in the previous half a century thanks to a strategy of selling just two types of very fast cars to a small number of people, but as its sports cars age it is banking on its newly-launched Cayenne sports utility vehicle to boost sales.
The Stuttgart-based company has said it may struggle to sell as many of its high-margin 911 and entry-level Boxster sports cars as it did last fiscal year, but is hoping the Cayenne will lift unit sales around 20 percent to 65,000 cars world-wide in the year to end-July.
Investors hope the launch of 911 derivatives including a range-topping GT3, due to be unveiled in Geneva on Tuesday, will help cushion weakness in Porsche's sports car sales.
But the 911, whose design has remained essentially unchanged for the last 40 years, will see a number of new competitors encroach on its territory in the near future.
Italy's Lamborghini, a unit of Europe's largest carmaker Volkswagen which has previously made only top-end cars, is unveiling its new "entry-level" Gallardo in Geneva, expected to carry a price tag of around 120,000 euros and compete head on with Porsche's fastest 911s.
Britain's Aston Martin, which belongs to car giant Ford, is also aiming squarely at the Porsche 911 with its AM V8 Vantage concept car, having its first European showing in Geneva and expected to be launched in 2005.
Porsche also confirmed preliminary figures released in late January showing its pre-tax profit had risen 19 percent to 185.7 million euros in the first half of its business year, with sales rising almost 20 percent to 2.2 billion euros.
It said net profit rose 14 percent to 102 million euros.