Audi on Thursday defied the auto-industry gloom to post its 13th consecutive year of record sales.

The premium brand, a key earnings contributor to Volkswagen, Europe's largest auto maker by sales, said its vehicle sales broke through the one million barrier last year, a 4.1% rise from 2007.

The results were driven by Audi's new Q5 small sport-utility-vehicle and the new generation of its core A4 series. Audi's next long-term target is 1.5 million vehicle sales a year by 2015.

The performance is remarkable for its timing: It comes when auto makers around the globe are slashing production as demand for new cars in most major markets such as the U.S., Western Europe and Japan remains woeful amid the financial crisis as customers delaying big-ticket purchases.

In December, Audi said sales soared 17% from a year earlier to around 82,800 cars.

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