BERLIN -- Germany's Volkswagen AG says it started off the year with brisk car sales, as deliveries outside Europe -- particularly in China -- helped more than offset declines in its home market.

Europe's largest automaker said Tuesday overall January sales were up 17.4 per cent to 491,900 from 419,100 in January 2012.

European sales dropped 6.8 per cent to 116,900 cars from 125,500 the year before. Sales in western Europe, excluding Germany, where several countries are mired in recession, dropped 12.3 per cent to 60,600 cars while German sales dropped 3.9 per cent to 38,100 cars. Sales in central and eastern Europe rose 8.8 per cent to 18,200 cars.

But Asian sales rose 43.7 per cent to 251,100 cars -- 235,000 of which were sold in China. North American sales were up 10.6 per cent to 43,800.