(Adds details on sales)
NEW YORK, JAN 8 - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) aims to sell more than 500,000 vehicles in the United States this year, surpassing the half-million mark for the first time in 39 years on the back of its new Passat and Beetle models.
Reaching the half-million mark equates to double-digit sales growth for Europe's biggest carmaker in the U.S. market, the second-biggest in the world after China.
Jonathan Browning, Chief Executive of Volkswagen Group of America, told a news conference that overall car demand would further recover this year, though at a somewhat slower pace than in 2011.
Volkswagen had U.S. group sales 444,192 vehicles last year, a 23.3 percent increase over 2010, with about 70 percent coming from its Volkswagen brand and the remainder from its other brands such as Audi (NSUG.DE), Bentley and Lamborghini.
Browning forecast the size of the U.S. car market at between 13.5 million and 14 million vehicles in 2012, depending on economic conditions.
Volkswagen's U.S. sales operations would achieve operating profit for second straight year in 2012, he added.
Christiaan Hetzner via Frankfurt newsroom; Editing by Bernard Orr