Crisis-hit car giant Rover is set to receive a welcome boost with new figures showing a big increase in sales.

The loss-making firm is understood to have climbed the new car sales chart for April, reaching number two or three and beaten only by Ford and possibly Vauxhall.

Meanwhile, the market share of German owner BMW is believed to have fallen from just over 3% for the first three months of the year, to around 2% last month.

Rover’s market share is understood to have doubled from 6% in the first quarter of the year to almost 13% in April.

A huge campaign advertising discounts of new Rover models is likely to have led to the upsurge in sales, although company officials hope the increase reflects a wave of loyalty from car buyers in the wake of the threat to close the firm.

Negotiations between BMW and the Phoenix consortium bidding to buy Rover were continuing and likely to go on over the weekend.

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BMW said there were ‘hundreds of bits and pieces’ to be discussed between the two sides.

John Towers, the former Rover executive who heads Phoenix, was expected to meet Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers in London today to update the minister on the progress of his negotiations.

BMW has warned it will have no alternative other than to close Rover if a deal cannot be achieved by the end of the month.

Phoenix, which is backed by unions, is attempting to raise finance estimated at £200 million as well as seeking around £500 million from BMW to fund* its plans to maintain mass car production at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham.