Volkswagen's namesake brand saw operating earnings slip by 45 percent in the first quarter, as it joined the ranks of European carmakers suffering a tough first quarter.

The brand earned 590 million euros before interest and taxes, compared to 1.08 billion euros in the same period a year earlier.

Audi, Volkswagen AG's luxury mainstay and a key driver of earnings, dipped to 1.31 billion euros from 1.41 billion euros a year ago.

The company's other brands include Bentley, Porsche, SEAT and Skoda. VW reported detailed earnings Monday after releasing key figures last week. The group as a whole saw net income fall 38 percent to 1.95 billion euros.

CEO Martin Winterkorn called it "a good start to the year" but added that "the coming months will be anything but easy."