UPDATE 1-Volkswagen says January sales surge won't last

Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:25am EST

* Group deliveries to customers rise 41 pct to 538,500 cars * Ford of Europe sales up 4.2 percent to 105,300 vehicles

* February new car registrations could drop 30 pct - VDIK

(Writes through, adds details, Ford of Europe volumes, VDIK comment)

FRANKFURT, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) said a 41 percent rise in January sales volume should not distract from challenges confronting it later this year when growth rates are set to tail off sharply as government subsidies run out.

Europe's largest carmaker, which aims to overtake Toyota Motor Co (7203.T) as industry leader by 2018, delivered 538,500 vehicles to customers last month.

"The situation on international automotive markets remains tense," said Christian Klingler, Volkswagen's head of group sales, in a statement on Friday.

Sales to customers of its core VW brand rose 46 percent to 359,300 last month, driven by demand for its Golf and Polo models.

Skoda brand sales increased 55 percent to 54,100 units, mainly thanks to a sales surge in China, while even its struggling Seat brand posted a growth of 23 percent to 24,300 cars.

By comparison, Ford of Europe (part of Ford Motor Co (F.N)) said its sales in the continent's core 19 countries rose 4.2 percent to 105,300 in January -- the eighth consecutive month of volume growth.

"We have to remember though that the market outlook for 2010 is still uncertain, especially with the run-out of some scrappage schemes in the near future. Our industry forecast is that the (European) market will be down from the 15.9 million we saw last year," Ford of Europe sales chief Ingvar Sviggum said in a statement.

The head of Germany's association for import car brands VDIK told Reuters new car registrations in February would likely sink 30 percent, now that scrapping schemes in Europe's biggest economy have run out.

For the current year, registrations could sink by 1 million to 2.8 million new vehicles in Germany, Volker Lange said in the interview. (Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Additional reporting by Jan Schwartz in Hamburg; Editing by David Holmes)