Ford's Volvo unit, which is up for sale, reported sales in China up 42% in the first eight months of the year to 12,000 units, about the same as it sold in the whole of 2008.

China's Geely Group is one of Volvo's suitors although media reports have suggested that Ford will wait for GM's decision on Opel in the hope that either RHJ International or Magna International might switch attention to Volvo if their bids are spurned.

Volvo said its strong performance in China was due mainly to the popularity of its flagship S80L - a stretched version of the S80 saloon - which was put into local production in March.

Volvo lagged behind rivals Audi and BMW in launching long-wheelbase variants of key models, seen as essential to success in China where Mercedes-Benz will launch a stretched C-Class before the end of next year. Many buyers employ chauffeurs and even models such as Ford's Mondeo have rear compartment modifications.

Combined sales of the S80L and S80 models soared 150% versus the first eight months of last year, Volvo Cars China said, without revealing specifics.

CEO Alexander Klose said main drivers for the robust growth include the company's deeper understanding of the local market, successful product strategy, effective marketing and a premium brand image.

"The successful new product launches have gotten positive market feedback and the brand promotion programmes have boosted our premium image. We are confident that we will be able to continue growth in the future," Klose said.

With the slogan "Volvo For Life", the company started local production in 2006 with the S40 at  Ford's joint venture with Chang'an Motor  in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing.

It was a later arrival than Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - one of main reasons Volvo's sales in China trail its rivals'. In the first half of this year, Audi and BMW moved more than 66,000 and 36,000 vehicles in China respectively.

Volvo's current lineup in China also includes the imported XC60 and XC90 SUVs as well as C30 and C70 coupes. It now has 75 showrooms and sales outlets across the nation. The company said it would continue to introduce new models and expand its sales networks.

JD Power & Associates has predicted that luxury vehicle sales in China will double to 600,000 units a year by 2015.