FRANKFURT — Audi, the top-of-the-range carmaker owned by German auto giant Volkswagen, said Tuesday it achieved record sales in the first quarter of 2012, thanks to strong demand in China. Audi said it sold 346,100 cars worldwide in the January-March period, up 10.8 percent compared with a year earlier. “This past quarter was the best in our company’s history,” Audi said in a statement. With Chinese sales soaring by 40.5 percent to 90,063 in the three months, Audi also achieved its best quarter ever in China, it said. By contrast, sales in Europe slipped by 0.1 percent to 186,350 vehicles. Kyocera to build Japan’s biggest solar plant in bid to solve power crunch TOKYO, AFP High-tech manufacturer Kyocera said Tuesday it will build Japan’s largest solar power plant to help solve an electricity crunch in the almost nuclear power-free country. Kyocera said it will join forces with heavy machinery giant IHI and Mizuho Corporate Bank to construct a solar power plant capable of generating 70 megawatts of electricity, in southern Kagoshima prefecture. The planned output is equivalent to 40 percent of industrial solar cells shipped domestically in 2011, Kyocera said in a statement. It will provide enough electricity for roughly 22,000 households annually and, if replacing power generated from fossil fuels, will offset around 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide, it said.