Volkswagen piled on some big-time profits for the 2010 model year, as the German automaker finished the year in the black with a staggering $10 billion. VW sales were up, too, with 7.1 million units moved for the year. And compared to VW's long-term production plans, 7.1 million is a relative drop in the bucket – the German automaker plans to build 10 million vehicles per year by 2018, making the massive conglomerate the largest automaker in the world by volume.

Impressive, but The Detroit News reports that a study by the University of Duisburg-Essen's CAR-Center Automotive Research institute shows that the German automaker is heavy on employees and a bit short on productivity when compared to Ford and General Motors. The study shows that Ford's $6.6 billion profit translates into $1,638 per vehicle, compared to VW's $1,393. GM is last in this study at $661 per unit.

Interesting, then, that when it comes to vehicles sold per employee, GM leads the pack with 42 sold per worker. Ford is a close second at 38 vehicles per employee, while VW finishes woefully behind at just 18 units per worker. Ford also earned an operating profit of $55,152 per employee, while GM finished second in this metric at $27,421. VW again falls behind with a per-employee profit of $25,130. And if VW doesn't reach its production goals, the automaker risks these efficiency numbers becoming even more lopsided, as the company plans to hire another 50,000 employees in the next few years.

These numbers show that VW is behind in several key areas, but what does it matter if the automaker is posting $10 billion in profits? The DetNews suggests that in doing so, VW is exposing itself to greater risk in the event of another industry downturn.

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: Bill Pugliano/Getty]

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