FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group posted an unexpected decline in fourth-quarter operating profit, even as it said full-year results for 2011 were a record.
Quarterly operating profit slid 0.9 percent to 2.3 billion euros, or about $3.1 billion, based on preliminary full-year results published last week.
Analysts had forecast a slight increase to $3.2 billion on the back of improvements at the company's core VW and Audi brands.
VW said full-year profit for 2011 was an all-time high for the group, rising 58 percent to $15.0 billion from $9.5 billion a year earlier.
Europe's biggest automaker is not immune to the economic downturn in its home region, despite its strong market position in the relatively dynamic economies of Asia and Latin America.
Car production at VW outstripped deliveries by nearly 100,000 in the final quarter, creating a stock of unsold vehicles that was nearly twice as big as the number of vehicles built in the first nine months.
"VW generated a negative cash flow in the fourth quarter," Michael Punzet, a DZ Bank analyst, wrote in a note to investors. "In our view, this is mainly related to production cuts at year end and some investments at plants for a new underbody that will be used as the basis for several vehicles."
The group's net income for the year more than doubled to $20.5 billion. Profit was affected by a gain from the revaluation of the group's Porsche options.
VW, whose brands also include Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini and Bentley, delivered a record 8.27 million vehicles in 2011. VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn has said he wants the company's brands to increase annual global sales to 10 million by 2018 or before in an effort to surpass General Motors as the world's biggest carmaker.
VW is expected to publish detailed financial results for the full year and an outlook for 2012 at its annual news conference on March 12.
-- Reuters and Bloomberg