VW says 2013 will be tough, eyes H2 upturn

Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:08am EDT

* Coming months "will be anything but easy" -CEO

* VW trusts "to pick up speed" in H2 -CEO

* VW backs 2013 targets "despite all uncertainties" -CEO

HANOVER, Germany, April 25 (Reuters) - Germany's Volkswagen said it was bracing for a tough year, though the automaker trusts that its business may improve in the second half as overseas markets keep growing.

"The coming months will be anything but easy," Chief executive Martin Winterkorn said at VW's annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday.

Except for North America and China, all regions were marked "by often significant uncertainty", he said, adding that core European markets would remain "extremely weak" for the foreseeable future.

Still, Europe's No. 1 automaker expects to "pick up speed" over the remainder of 2013 and will stick with full-year targets "despite all economic uncertainties", Winterkorn said.

VW on Wednesday reported a 26-percent drop in first-quarter operating profit to 2.34 billion euros ($3.04 billion), though it stood by goals to match last year's record earnings of 11.5 billion euros and to push sales and deliveries to new records.

"Regardless of whether we're in an upturn or downturn, it's our goal to ensure that VW reaches the top of the automotive industry by 2018," Winterkorn said.

($1 = 0.7695 euros) (Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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