SAIC sold 16,000 units of its updated version of the old Longbridge-built Rover 75 in China between March and December last year as it led the mainland market with total sales of 1.69 million, a rise of 26 per cent.

The car, called the Roewe, is based on technologies that SAIC acquired from the crashed MG Rover group and which have been developed with the help of engineers at automotive consultant Ricardo's Leamington Spa centre. SAIC, now merged with Nanjing Automobile, the company that acquired rights to the MG brand and which plans making a small number of sports cars on part of the Longbridge site, said its car sales rose by 24 per cent to 1.14 million units.

It is China's largest carmaker. Shanghai GM, General Motors' flagship car joint venture in China with SAIC, sold more than 500,000 Buick-derived cars in 2007, a record for the unit. Shanghai VW, the company's joint venture, with Germany's Volkswagen, hit record sales of 456,000 cars while Ssangyong, the South Korean carmaker controlled by SAIC, rose by 13 per cent to 136,000 units in 2007.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that demand is still strong for the ill-fated MG Rover's products in Britain.

Inchcape, the car dealership group, said it had sold three "as new" examples of the rare Rover 75 V8 and its MG variant that had been in storage since the company collapsed in 2005. The cars, powered by Ford's Mustang 4.6 litre V8 engine, sold at auction at Black-bushe in Hampshire for £40,400 in total.

Blackbushe auction centre manager James Gibson said: "Sales such as this underline just how evocative the Rover and MG brands have become in a short time."