TIME Greece

5 Facts About the Greek Elections

Greek Prime Minister and Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras, at the Presidential palace during the swearing in ceremony of the new Greek Government, Athens, Jan. 27, 2015 .
Greek Prime Minister and Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras, at the Presidential palace during the swearing in ceremony of the new Greek Government, Athens, Jan. 27, 2015 . Panayiotis Tzamaros/NurPhoto/Corbis

The results of Sunday's elections in Greece pose major challenges to Europe

On Sunday, Greek elections ushered in a radical left-wing Syriza government in sweeping fashion: the party won 149 seats—two short of an absolute majority—on the back of its anti-establishment, anti-austerity platform. How dissatisfied are Greeks with the status quo? How does that compare with Germany, heading into tense negotiations over the southern European country’s debt? And where can Greece turn for support? Here are five facts that explain the situation.

1. Surging discontent

In 2010, Syriza was polling at 5%. In last weekend’s elections, they captured more than 36% of the vote. Meanwhile, Golden Dawn, an anti-immigration party with neo-Nazi associations, took third place with 6%. Perhaps a different poll best explains this surge in support for anti-establishment parties. In a Pew Research survey measuring economic attitudes, Greece came dead last among all countries polled: just 2% of Greeks think their economic situation is good. (Compare that to the 85% of Germans who are happy with their economy.)

(Eurasia Group, Pew Research)

2. 25%: Greece’s unlucky number

Why so much frustration with the economy? Since the financial crisis struck in 2008, the Greek economy has shrunk by more than 25%. So have wages. The unemployment rate is over 25% too. Youth unemployment is double that, rising to 50.6% in October. (Compare that to 7.4% youth unemployment in Germany.)

(Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the European Magazine, Trading Economics)

3. Under pressure

When Greece inked a historic bailout worth $270 billion dollars, or some $25,000 per Greek citizen from the Troika—the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank—it came with a quid pro quo. The government has undertaken drastic cuts in government spending to try to balance the budget. Education funding has been decimated: over six years of austerity, the Ministry of Education’s budget has been slashed by more than 35%. The pain adds up: the University of Crete endured a budget cut of 75% in 2011, an additional 15% the following year—and a 23% cut is scheduled for this year. Syriza’s argument—that such cuts are a bad bet for Greece’s future and will undermine longer term growth—resonates with the broader Greek population.

(CNBC, European Parliament)

4. Brain drain

With the numbers so bleak, it’s no wonder Greeks are leaving in droves. Migration outflows are up 300% compared to pre-crisis figures; roughly 2% of the population has left, some 200,000 people. Somewhat ironically, over half of these emigrants have headed for Britain—and for Germany. Since 2010, more than 4,000 Greek doctors have left the country for jobs abroad.

(The Guardian, NPR, Deutsche Welle)

5. Pivot to Russia?

Greece has had a little help from a friend outside the EU. In 2013, Russia surpassed Germany to become Greece’s largest trading partner, with trade flows of $12.5 billion. Tourism is a huge part of the Greek economy, contributing over 16% of GDP—and Russia has been the fastest growing source of new visitors. In 2013, tourism revenues from Russia skyrocketed 42%. Of course, recent Western sanctions undermine this budding relationship—a weaker ruble means less tourism, and Russia’s EU food export ban hurts Greek fruit exporters. This could explain why new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with the Russian ambassador to Greece within hours of taking office—and publicly expressed his disapproval with new EU condemnations of Russia.

(Bloomberg, the OEC, EU Observer)

Foreign-affairs columnist Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy. His next book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, will be published in May

TIME Germany

Germans Weigh Response to Likely Demands of New Greek PM

Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at Maximos Mansion, the Greek Prime Minister's official residence in central Athens, Jan. 26, 2015.
Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at Maximos Mansion, the Greek Prime Minister's official residence in central Athens, Jan. 26, 2015. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

The newly elected government in Greece will test the patience of its German creditors with its demands for more financial help

It would be hard to find a place in Europe that feels more cozily insulated from the troubles of the Greek economy than the marbled halls of KaDeWe, the posh department store in the center of Berlin. Its immaculate champagne bar and moneyed clientele practically ooze with the kind of wealth that Greece and other members of the European Union have struggled to regain since the global financial crisis hit five years ago. But as the electoral upset in Greece reminded Europe over the weekend, German fortunes and Greek misfortunes are deeply intertwined.

“We put so much money there, so much money, and for what?” asked Mark Schaefer, a retired German insurance executive, as he waited for his son to join him on Monday for lunch in the culinary hall of KaDeWe.

It is a common question for Germans these days. Since 2010, their country has shouldered the biggest share of the roughly $270-billion bailout program meant to save Greece from economic ruin. But the left-wing Syriza party that won Sunday’s elections in Greece has asked for some of its bailout loans to be forgiven. The new Greek Prime Minister, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, is sure to push for a new round of negotiations over the terms of those loans in the coming months, and they will again test the patience of German taxpayers as well as the solidarity and stability of the shared European market.

“I think maybe it’s time for a break-up,” says Kathrin Scheel, who was browsing the cosmetics section of KaDeWe on Monday. But the laugh that accompanied her remark was perhaps as telling as the sentiment behind it. Frustrated as Germans are with their Greek debtors, most of them do not seriously want to risk a break-up of the Eurozone that unites them with Greece and 17 other members of the European Union. They have, after all, profited enormously from their shared currency, and a Greek exit could put that system in jeopardy.

According to the Bertelsmann Foundation, a leading German think tank, the common currency has added an average of about 37 billion euros (or nearly $42 billion) to the size of Germany’s economy every year since its creation in 1992. Through increased trade and investment, that comes to an average of 450 euros in wealth per person per year in Germany, says Henning vom Stein, the head of Bertelsmann’s office in Brussels. “Germany has the biggest interest in keeping the single market together and making it function more dynamically,” he says in an email to TIME.

So it is no surprise that German leaders have shown a grudging willingness to compromise with a Syriza-led government in Greece. “Since the beginning of the crisis, the goal has been to stabilize the whole of the Eurozone, including Greece, and that remains the goal of our work,” the spokesman for the German government, Steffen Siebert, said on Monday.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be under intense pressure from her own electorate not to give in to Tsipras’ demands for a reduction in Greek debt. Her popularity is based in large part on her handling of the crisis in the Eurozone, and any major concessions to Greece could dent her approval ratings, which hit a high of over 70% in August. That much seemed clear from the tone of the German press on Monday. The country’s most popular daily, Bild, mused on its website about how much the “Greek chaos” would cost German taxpayers, and called Tsipras a “Euro-horror” on its front page, asking: “Should Europe really tremble before the new Greek leader?”

But judging by the market reaction on Monday, the answer is probably not. European traders did not respond to the Greek election with a sell-off, and stocks remained flat at the end of the day, as did the value of the euro after a drop in early trading. So investors seem to believe that Greece and its creditors are likely to find a compromise to keep the Eurozone intact.

Somewhat harder to gauge are the limits of German patience. Asked how much more his government should do to help the struggling Greek economy, Schaefer, the retiree, answered: “It is already too much.” Rich Berliners are not the only ones with that opinion. In a nationwide poll published this month by the German state television network ARD, 61% of respondents said they want Greece to be forced out of the Eurozone if it does not meet the conditions of its loans. So as much as Germans have benefited from the common currency, they may not give their Chancellor much slack in negotiating to preserve it.

TIME Germany

German Court Affirms Man’s Right to Stand While Peeing

Man at Urinal
Brett White—Getty Images/Flickr RF

People who stand should "expect regular significant quarrels with housemates, especially women"

A German court ruled on Thursday that men who pee while standing aren’t responsible for the potential consequences on the bathroom floor.

The Düsseldorf court ruled in favor of a tenant after his landlord tried to withhold part of a security deposit because of stains on the marble bathroom floor allegedly caused by urine, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports.

“Despite growing domestication of men in this matter,” Judge Stefan Hank said, urinating while standing up is still widespread.” Still, he added, people who stand should “expect regular significant quarrels with housemates, especially women.”

[Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]

TIME Germany

The Leader of Germany’s Anti-Islam Group Quits After His Hitler Photo Goes Viral

Hitler-picture of PEGIDA-head causes trouble
Front pages of German daily newspapers including Hamburger Morgenpost and Bild show pictures of the PEGIDA chief Lutz Bachmann sporting a Hitler moustache on Jan. 21 2015 Marcus Brandt—EPA

Police are investigating whether to charge PEGIDA chief Lutz Bachmann

The head of Germany’s anti-immigration movement PEGIDA stepped down Wednesday after a photo showing him dressed as Adolf Hitler emerged online.

Lutz Bachmann was pictured on his Facebook page sporting a toothbrush mustache and with his dark hair combed straight into a side parting to resemble the Nazi leader, the New York Times reports.

Bachmann, 41, is also quoted as referring to immigrants as “scumbags,” “stupid cows” and “trash” on social media.

Dresden police are investigating whether there are sufficient grounds to prosecute Bachmann. (Germany has strict laws governing Nazi symbolism and paraphernalia.)

On Wednesday, supporters of PEGIDA, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, gathered in Leipzig for an anti-immigration rally.

[NYT]

TIME Germany

German Rabbit Breeders Criticize Pope’s Sex Comments

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks with journalists on his flight back from Manila to Rome
Pope Francis gestures as he speaks with journalists on his flight back from Manila to Rome on Jan. 19, 2015 Stefano Rellandini—Reuters

Not everyone approved of his comments

(BERLIN, Germany) — The pope’s comment that Catholics don’t have to breed “like rabbits” has caused offense — among Germany’s rabbit breeders.

Pope Francis said Monday that Catholics should instead practice “responsible parenting” and use Church-approved forms of birth control.

But Erwin Leowsky, president of the central council of German rabbit breeders, told news agency dpa on Tuesday that only rabbits which live in the wild are sexually overactive.

He said those in captivity have tamer reproductive habits.

Leowsky says he feels the pope should allow Catholics to use contraception rather than resorting to misleading cliches about rabbits.

TIME Cambodia

Cambodia’s Internal-Security Chief: ‘I Learned From Hitler’

Thai Defence Minister General Yuthasak S
Thai Defense Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapa, left, shakes hands with Cambodia's internal-security chief Sao Sokha, right, upon his arrival at the Ministry of Defense in Phnom Penh on Sept. 23, 2011 Tang Chhin Sothy—AFP/Getty Images

Nazi dictator hailed as an example for states wishing to maintain social order

A top Cambodian security official has praised one of history’s most reviled dictators, Adolf Hitler, at a speech in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh.

Commander General Sao Sokha, who heads the paramilitary Royal Gendarmerie and sits on the central committee of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said that states that wanted to maintain social order should look no further than the wartime Nazi Chancellor of Germany.

“Speaking frankly, I learned from Hitler,” Sao Sokha said, according to the Cambodia Daily. “Germany, after World War I, was not allowed by the international community to have more than 100,000 soldiers, but the Nazis and Hitler did whatever so they could to wage World War II.”

He claimed the Third Reich’s rise during the 1930s was an invaluable example for Cambodia, after its bloody civil war of the 1960s and ’70s.

On Wednesday, the impoverished Southeast Asian nation of 15 million marked three decades of rule by strongman Hun Sen.

According to Human Rights Watch, Hun Sen’s regime has been blighted by “extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, summary trials, censorship, bans on assembly and association, and a national network of spies and informers intended to frighten and intimidate the public into submission.”

Seems the admiration would likely cut both ways.

TIME Germany

Meet the German Activist Leading the Movement Against ‘Islamization’

Bachmann, co-leaders of anti-immigration group PEGIDA, a German abbreviation for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West", gestures during a Reuters interview in Dresden
Lutz Bachmann, co-leader of anti-immigration group PEGIDA, a German abbreviation for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West" during a Reuters interview in Dresden on Jan. 12, 2015. Faabrizio Bensch—Reuters

Once a professional soccer player and fugitive from German law, Lutz Bachmann has rallied the disparate forces of the German right against the "parallel societies" of Muslims in Europe

Early on Tuesday afternoon, Lutz Bachmann, a rising star of the German right, stepped out of the Holiday Inn in his hometown of Dresden to take a break from a series of interviews. He lit a cigarette, pulled a smartphone from his pocket and, with a few taps, brought up the Facebook page of the movement he founded in October, “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,” better known by its catchy German acronym, Pegida. “Look at that,” he told me, pointing at the screen. “It’s just unbelievable.” The statistics of the page had spiked, with nearly 2.5 million visits in the past week, and almost half a million people liking or sharing it.

Bachmann was elated. Over the past three months, the 41-year-old convicted felon with old ties to German soccer clubs has managed to tap into a potent strain of xenophobia. The weekly marches he has organized in Dresden have united many of the disaffected forces of the right, from Christian conservatives to neo-Nazis, under a sea of anti-Islamic banners, white crosses and German flags. Their growing popularity has unnerved the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel and frightened immigrant communities in many German cities, especially after the latest Pegida rally coincided with the murder of a young Muslim asylum seeker.

On Monday night, just hours after Bachmann led his latest march through the center of Dresden, Khaled Idris Bahray, a 20-year-old native of Eritrea, was stabbed to death outside his apartment block in the south of the city. Dieter Kroll, chief of the Dresden police, concluded on Wednesday that it was a murder. According to a report in the Guardian, a swastika had been scrawled on the door of Bahray’s apartment, where he was living with several other asylum seekers, three days before he was killed. A warning had reportedly been written beside that Nazi symbol: “We’ll get you all.”

Bachmann, who publicly renounces extremist violence of any kind, denies that the killing had anything to with Pegida. What seems clear, however, is that race relations in Germany have reached their tensest point in years since the terrorist attacks last week in neighboring France. That massacre, which saw Islamist gunmen shoot 17 people dead in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris, gave Bachmann’s message about Islam a powerful new talking point. But he insists his enemy is not the religion itself. It’s what he calls the “parallel societies” that form in Muslim neighborhoods across Germany and, in his view, pose a threat to Europe’s “Judeo-Christian values.”

“The problem for us is this parallel society, that they don’t accept and respect German law. They say they are living for Sharia law,” he tells TIME in an interview. “We are looking at the world, and we see what happens in Belgium, in Holland, in France, in the U.K.…where they have these parallel societies in schools. They screwed it up, and we don’t want this to happen here.”

That message has struck a chord in Germany. A survey conducted last month found that 30% of respondents had “full and total” sympathy for Pegida’s cause, the same level of support that Merkel’s political party got in the German elections to the European Parliament last year. During Pegida’s latest rally in Dresden on Jan. 12, the group set another attendance record — roughly 25,000 people came out to hear Bachmann speak from a stage built out of a repurposed meat locker.

Wearing a parka against the cold and two weeks’ worth of stubble, he told the crowd that, “Paris is another reason to justify the existence of Pegida.” Billed as a “march of mourning” for the victims of the Paris attacks, the rally began with a moment of silence to honor them. But the Islamist violence in Paris has also been a source of validation for Pegida. “We pulled it off!” Bachmann said. “We and our issues are the main issue around the world!”

The following day, Merkel made a fresh attempt to steal back command of those issues. The Chancellor had already used her televised address on New Year’s Eve to warn that Pegida activists had “coldness and even hatred in their hearts,” and her appearance on Tuesday at the annual Islam Conference in Berlin came with a similar message. “Xenophobia, racism, extremism have no place” in Germany, she told the summit of Muslim community leaders.

A few hours later, she appeared on a stage before Brandenburg Gate, along with nearly every member of her cabinet, to hold a rally for interfaith understanding in the wake of the Paris attacks. It began with an Islamic prayer sung by an imam and, as a light rain fell over the crowd of some 15,000 people on the square, it culminated with Merkel and her ministers standing arm-in-arm with imams and other religious leaders.

But the somber theatrics of that event betrayed just how worried the government is about Pegida’s rise. It’s not hard to see why. Given its history with Nazism, Germany has spent decades developing a kind of social immunity to the far right through education and public discourse. The unwieldy word for this effort in German is Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung — which roughly translates as, “wrestling the past into submission” — and it has proven relatively effective. While nationalist and xenophobic parties have emerged to win strong support in other European states (such as the Front National in France, UKIP in in the UK and the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands), the far-right end of the German political spectrum has long been comparatively vacant except for a couple of marginal groups.

But the social concerns that allow such parties to thrive are as alive in Germany as they are anywhere else in Europe. Last year alone, the number of asylum applications in Germany nearly doubled to about 200,000, many of them from war-torn Syria. In a survey conducted in November and published last week, an astonishing 40% of Germans said they do not feel at home in their own country because of its purported Islamization. A quarter of them said Germany should no longer admit any Muslim migrants at all, while the number of Germans who feel that Islam is incompatible with life in the West has grown from 52% in 2012 to 61% at the end of last year, the survey from the Bertelsmann Stiftung think tank found.

The Paris attacks, the worst in France’s recent history, have meanwhile heightened fears in Germany about the potential for radicalism in immigrant communities. As of late November, more than 500 German citizens had gone to fight alongside the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), and around 180 of them had returned, according to Germany’s domestic security service. One ISIS fighter, who speaks German with no accent, has released several videos urging German Muslims to join the jihad and calling for attacks against his home country. Identified only as Silvio K. by German authorities, the 27-year-old radical was born in the region of Saxony, whose capital is Dresden.

By the standards of the European right, however, Pegida’s proposals for dealing with such problems hardly seem radical. Their 19-point manifesto calls for stricter asylum laws and a constitutional requirement on immigrants to assimilate into German society. “In Idaho this would be mainstream,” says Gerald Praschl, the political editor of the most popular weekly tabloid in the former East Germany. “But here it is considered right wing.”

As a result, Germany’s political parties have tended to sidestep these issues, leading many of Pegida’s supporters to feel that the government ignores their concerns. “The contact got lost between the politicians and the people,” says Bachmann. “We are not at all represented by any parties in Germany.”

But given his past, Bachmann seems like an unlikely spokesman for the Christian values he extols. In 1998, when he was about 25 years old, he was sentenced to several years in prison for burglary and, instead of serving his time, he fled to South Africa to live as a fugitive. “That was like a click in the brain,” he says of his decision to go on the lam. “I became a refugee. But a refugee from German law.”

He arrived in Capetown a few years after the end of apartheid and along with a fellow German expatriate, Bachmann says he opened a nightclub catering to the black majority. “It was scandalous,” he says. “People were shouting at me, ‘How can you do this as a German, as a white? How can you open a night club for blacks?’”

His sojourn lasted about two years before immigration officials caught up with him, and he was deported back to Germany, where he served two years in prison before being let out on parole. In 2008, he was again arrested in Dresden, this time for possession of cocaine, and given a three year suspended sentence. “Everybody knows I did this, because I’m quite a well known person in this city,” he says of his legal troubles. “But it was a long time ago.” And it does not appear to have hurt his standing among the Pegida faithful.

On the contrary, his mottled past and his working-class upbringing – Bachmann is the son of a butcher – seem to have won him sympathy among Germans fed up with their polished political elites. His affiliations with local soccer clubs have also given him another base of support. In his interview with TIME, Bachmann revealed that he played professional soccer for the teams in Dresden and Dusseldorf. But when prodded for details, he turned to Pegida’s spokeswoman, Kathrin Oertel, and asked her in German whether this part of his past could serve as a “reference to hooligans.” Oertel answered: “Exactly,” and Bachmann declined to answer any more questions about soccer.

According to Dresden police, the Pegida rallies have attracted hundreds of violent soccer hooligans and right-wing extremists, and Bachmann admits that they are among the crowds. “But it is less than one percent,” he says. “At the demonstrations against Pegida, there are about 600 left-wing violent people, which means almost 10%.”

That didn’t seem far from the truth in Dresden on Monday night. As the tide of Pegida supporters marched through the city, clusters of counter-protestors lined the route, shouting abuse at the marchers and, at least once, rushing forward to provoke a fight that riot police were able to stop. Nationwide, rallies against Pegida’s brand of xenophobia have far outnumbered the marches that Bachman has organized in Dresden.

The coming weeks and months will tell which current of German society has more momentum. Already Pegida has inspired copycat movements in several European countries, notably Switzerland and Norway, and the group’s marches in Dresden continue to swell by the week. Eventually Bachmann hopes that Merkel and her government will initiate the reforms to asylum law that Pegida is demanding. And what if they continue to denounce the movement as a bunch of hateful quacks? “Well, there was already a revolution in 1989 coming from Eastern Germany, and they know what we are able to do here if we keep on growing,” he says, referring to the popular uprising that overthrew East Germany’s communist government that year. “But we’ll see what happens. As we say in Germany, we don’t know where this train is going.”

TIME Germany

German Police Investigate Murder of Eritrean Refugee in Dresden

Germany Dresden Anti-Islam
Thousands of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) supporters march in Dresden, Germany on Jan. 12, 2014. Epoca Libera—Demotix/Corbis

Dresden is home to weekly anti-Islam protests staged by the right-wing PEGIDA organization

Police in the east German city of Dresden have launched a murder investigation following the stabbing of an Eritrean refugee after his body was found outside his home on Tuesday, the Guardian reports.

The man, identified as 20-year-old Khaled Idris Bahray, had left his apartment at 8pm on Monday, telling his seven flatmates he was going to buy cigarettes and would be back shortly. But the following morning, residents from the housing estate found his body. Police later confirmed Bahray was murdered in a knife attack.

The city of Dresden has attracted international attention recently because of weekly anti-immigration rallies held by Germany’s latest right-wing movement, PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West).

Bahray’s friends and flatmates told the Guardian that the Eritrean-born Muslim was a peace-loving and kindly man who had come to Germany seeking a better life.

Tesfalem Negasi, Bahray’s roommate, said a swastika was drawn on their apartment door, accompanied with the words: “We’ll get you all.” This was just three days before Bahray was murdered.

[Guardian]

TIME Germany

Angela Merkel to Join Muslim Tolerance Rally Amid Spiraling Anti-Islam Protests

German Chancellor Merkel arrives to attend a welcoming ceremony for Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives to attend a welcoming ceremony for Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Berlin, Jan. 12, 2015 Hannibal Hanschke—Reuters

Germany has been gripped by growing anti-Muslim rallies in recent weeks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she will join a Muslim community rally Tuesday to foster religious tolerance and stave off rising Islamaphobia in the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris.

Merkel insisted Monday that “Islam belongs to Germany,” as she attempts to rein in a burgeoning right-wing German protest movement dubbed “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident,” or Pegida, reports AFP.

Pegida drew an unprecedented 25,000 protesters to its 12th weekly march in Dresden on Monday, though some 100,000 people attended counter-demonstrations across Germany.

“Germany wants peaceful coexistence of Muslims and members of other religions,” Merkal told a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday.

The tolerance event is organized by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany with the slogan “Let’s be there for each other. Terror: not in our name!”

[AFP]

TIME Autos

Strong Sales for Volkswagen With Over 10 Million Vehicles Shipped in 2014

US-DETROIT-AUTO-SHOW
Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, speaks at a press event on the eve of The North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, on Jan. 11, 2015. Geoff Robins —AFP/Getty Images

The German manufacturer wants to be the largest automaker by sales in 2018

Volkswagen performed strongly last year after selling more than 10 million vehicles across its marques.

On Sunday, the German automaker confirmed that the company sold 10.14 million vehicles in 2014 — a 4.2% increase year-on-year.

In a statement ahead of the annual Detroit car show, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said the performance was “despite challenging market conditions.”

The company aims to become the largest auto manufacturer by sales in three years time.

Sales this year were bolstered in part by strong performances from Volkswagen’s luxury brands, Audi and Porsche, along with the growth of the Czech automobile line Skoda.

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