BMW said on Thursday that worldwide group sales were up an annual 12.5% in August led by strong demand in China.

"August sales figures developed better than expected," sales director Ian Robertson said. "We are seeing a stable upward trend and are gradually regaining the level we had prior to the economic and financial crisis."

"Asia - and China in particular - was the most powerful force driving our sales growth once again in August," Robertson said. The group has sold more than 106,000 vehicles in China this, already ahead of 2009 full year figures.

The group delivered a total of 103,329 vehicles worldwide, with the BMW brand posting a year-on-year increase of 16.3% to 88,007 units.

Rolls-Royce sold 246 cars, up from just 37 last year with year-to-date sales of 1,467, up from 411 in the same period of 2009.

Mini sales were down 6.7% for the month to 14,986, but the company said it expected this since major Mini revisions are launched in mid-September when the new Countryman also goes on sale. 

BMW retained its sales lead over German rivals, as Daimler said it sold 81,000 Mercedes-Benz cars last month and Audi reported sales of 80,300 vehicles.

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