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VW has slowest brand sales gain in eight months

BERLIN (Reuters) - The downturn in European auto markets has slowed delivery growth of Volkswagen AG brand vehicles to the slowest pace in eight months, company figures showed on Tuesday.

Deliveries to customers by VW's namesake brand rose 4.3 percent to 492,500 vehicles in September compared with the year before, the smallest increase since January's gain of 0.1 percent, Europe's dominant car manufacturer said.

"There's no letup in the European auto slump and VW can't extricate itself from the crisis," said Frankfurt-based Commerzbank analyst Sascha Gommel.

VW, which has outperformed its home region this year, halted production in Germany of its Passat model for two days last week as part of a wider move to cut group output targets for 2012 by about 300,000 vehicles, company sources said.

The global production target for the VW group, which also includes other marques such as Audi, has been cut to 9.4 million cars this year, up on last year's output of 8.5 million but short of the goal originally set for this year of about 9.7 million, the sources said on October 5.

"We remain very vigilant given the continued difficult conditions in western European auto markets," VW sales chief Christian Klingler said in a statement published on Tuesday.

VW expects to sell up to 140,000 fewer vehicles this year than originally expected across its multi-brand group, works council spokesman Joerg Koether said on October 5, confirming remarks by works council chief Bernd Osterloh published in Handelsblatt.

VW's nine-month group sales increased 10.6 percent to 6.802 million vehicles, the company said on Monday in an online presentation. Detailed group sales data are due to be published on October 12.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by David Holmes)

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