In the first five months of 2006, BMW Group sales rose by 9.8% year on year to 567,903 vehicles. The automaker recorded the highest growth rate in percentage terms in China where sales rose 66.1% to 17,951 units.

"The product mix continues to be of a high quality,"BMW noted in a statement, adding that China continues to be the second-largest market for the 7 series - to the end of May, 3,620 units, up 268%, were delivered there.

May sales in Italy were up 16.9% and 43,081 cars were delivered to customers there so far this year, up from 36,862 a year ago.

In Spain, sales rose 15.1% to 26,142. Belgium recorded a 30.6% increase to 15,929.

In May, the number of group cars delivered rose 5.5% to 119,972.

BMW said the reduced growth rate in comparison with the year to date figures for BMW brand was essentially the high base effect from the previous year - in March last year, the new generation 3 series sedan was launched.

Availability of the Mini line remains limited because of the current expansion of the Oxford plant.

Sales of BMW brand vehicles rose 13.3% year to date to 485,450. The strongest increase was for the 7 series, up 40.4% to 20,938. 3 series sales rose 38.8% or 55,822 vehicles to 207,469 units.

Mini deliveries for the year to May were off 7% to 82,239 (-7.0%.

Rolls-Royce delivered 214 Phantoms in the year to May, down 9.3% year on year. But May sales of 56 were up 3.7% compared to May 2005.