Volkswagen Group said today its passenger car deliveries rose 0.9% last year to a record 10.83 million.
This puts it neck-and-neck with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi in the race to be the world's biggest carmaker.
Rivals Toyota and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi have not released 2018 registration figures.
But the Franco-Japanese alliance sold 10.6 million cars in 2017 and racked up sales of 5.54 million cars in the first half of 2018.
Toyota last month released a forecast for total global sales of 10.55 million cars last year, but has yet to confirm official numbers.
Volkswagen said the VW brand delivered 6.24 million vehicles last year, while premium brands Audi and Porsche posted registrations of 1.81 million and 256,000 vehicles respectively.
This makes Audi the third biggest selling premium brand behind BMW, which delivered 2,125,026 cars and leader Mercedes-Benz, which sold 2.31 million passenger cars.
Volkswagen said the ongoing trade dispute with the USs had dampened the business climate in China, its most important market, over the second half of 2018.
Volkswagen's head of sales, Christian Dahlheim, said he expected demand in China to remain stable in 2019, although the first quarter would be challenging.
Separately, Dahlheim said the German carmaker did not foresee a significant financial impact in 2019 from the implementation of the new WLTP emissions standard, which cost the company €1 billion in 2018.
The Volkswagen Group said December deliveries fell 8.4%, to 916,200 vehicles, from 999,900 a year earlier.
December group deliveries to China dropped by 12.5% year-on-year, the Wolsburg-based carmaker said, adding that deliveries also fell by 5.6% in Europe and by 3.4% in the US.