UPDATE 1-VW group sales rise at highest rate in 14 months

Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:05am EDT

* VW March group sales up 7.6 pct, highest since Jan 2013

* Q1 group sales up 5.8 pct at record 2.4 mln cars

* Europe, China growth outweighs U.S., Brazil declines (Adds sales detail, VW quote and background)

BERLIN, April 11 (Reuters) - Volkswagen posted on Friday the strongest monthly gain in group vehicle sales in March in more than a year, benefiting from recovering demand in core European markets that helped outweigh falling sales in the United States and Brazil.

VW group deliveries, excluding the Scania and MAN heavy-truck nameplates, rose 7.6 percent last month to 929,500 vehicles, the strongest growth rate since January 2013.

First-quarter sales were up 5.8 percent at a record 2.4 million cars.

"There are signs of a return to modest growth on the markets in Western Europe," VW sales chief Christian Klingler said. The region accounts for about a third of the group's global sales.

European car sales were up for a sixth straight month in February as a gradual economic recovery in Portugal, Spain and Italy boosted demand for mass-market brands.

Industrywide EU car sales figures for March are due to be published on April 17.

VW said its western European sales were up 8.2 percent between January and March at 516,600 cars, excluding its German home market where deliveries rose 7.9 percent to 282,800. VW posted a 14.5 percent gain in China, its largest market, to 880,700 autos.

In the United States, where a new leadership at VW is seeking to revitalise an ageing model line-up, first-quarter deliveries fell 6.5 percent to 133,500 cars and plunged by a fifth in Brazil to 127,700.

VW expects to meet its seven-year-old target to increase group sales to over 10 million cars a year in 2014, four years earlier than planned. (Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Victoria Bryan, Greg Mahlich)