Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) looks to have overtaken Japanese rival Toyota Motor Co. (TM) as the world's biggest carmaker last year, according to sales figures published Wednesday that represent an incredible comeback for the scandal-plagued Germany industry icon.

Volkswagen shifted a record 10.74 million cars last year, the company said, a 4.3% increase from 2016 and likely firmly ahead of Toyota's anticipated 10.354 million in global unit sales, overtaking the Japanese group's title as world's biggest automaker for the first time in three years, according to Statista data. VW said an 8.5% increase in December sales, driven by growth in China and hits home market in Germany.

"We are grateful to our customers for their trust," said VW CEO Matthias Mueller. "We will continue to do everything we can in 2018 to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers all over the world." 

VW's China sales of 4.2 million represented around 40% of its total and were 5.1% higher than in 2016. European sales hit 4.3 million, the company said, up 3.3% from the previous year.

The record sales figures mark the end of an incredible turnaround for the Wolfsburg-based group, which was rocked by an embarrassing scandal linked to allegations that it rigged devices installed inside its diesel engine cars in order to evade emissions standards. The fines, penalties and reparations associated with the scandal, which was first revealed in September 2015, have cost the company more than $20 billion and loped more than 63% from its share price in a matter of weeks.

VW shares have surged more than 97% since then, however, as new CEO Mueller steered the group away from its previous focus on diesel car production and engineered a $40 billion investment into clean energy and autonomous vehicles. The stock was marked around 0.78% lower in Wednesday trading, however, and were changing hands at €182.60 each by mid-morning in Frankfurt. 

More of What's Trending on TheStreet:

More from Markets

How Sports Betting Will Impact TV M&A; Toys 'R' Us Lives On, Somewhere -- ICMYI

How Sports Betting Will Impact TV M&A; Toys 'R' Us Lives On, Somewhere -- ICMYI

Famed Chartist Marc Chaikin Gives Jim Cramer His Top Picks This Wednesday

Famed Chartist Marc Chaikin Gives Jim Cramer His Top Picks This Wednesday

Rewind: Jim Cramer on Trade, Pepsico, SodaStream, Estee Lauder and Nike

Rewind: Jim Cramer on Trade, Pepsico, SodaStream, Estee Lauder and Nike

How Alibaba Earnings and Jerome Powell's Jackson Hole Speech Could Move Markets

How Alibaba Earnings and Jerome Powell's Jackson Hole Speech Could Move Markets

Tesla Gets Major Price Target Slash From JPMorgan After Rough Weekend

Tesla Gets Major Price Target Slash From JPMorgan After Rough Weekend