A sales fall of 18.3% to 109,042 units in May was less severe than in most of the previous months, BMW said. Year to date sales of 487,906 were off 21.1% year on year.

Sales and marketing chief Ian Robertson said: "Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that our global sales figures will continue to improve over the course of the year."

May BMW brand sales were down 18.1% to 90,643 units and off 20.9% to 408,370 year to date.

Mini sales were 19.1% lower in May at 18,348 units and down 22.6% to 79,260 year to date.

Rolls-Royce sales fell 53.6% to 51 units last month and were down 27.6% to 276 for the year so far.