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Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 12 News List

GM sees booming growth in Asia and Latin America

AP , DETROIT

Despite General Motors Corp's problems in the US market, the automaker's worldwide sales were at their highest level in 27 years last year thanks to growth in Asia and Latin America, GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said.

"Getting outside of the US market we had a good year, on balance, around the world," Wagoner said in a transcript of remarks released on Saturday by GM.

Wagoner said preliminary sales figures show GM sold 9.2 million vehicles worldwide. The only other year GM sold more than 9 million vehicles was 1978, he said.

The figure raises the bar for Toyota Motor Corp, which is close to surpassing GM in worldwide sales to become the world's largest automaker. Toyota produced about 8.1 million vehicles last year and has announced plans to build 9.06 million vehicles this year.

Wagoner said more than half of GM's sales are now outside the US, and China is the automaker's second biggest market.

GM was particularly strong in Asia, selling more than 1 million vehicles for the first time ever, Wagoner said. GM's market share in the Asia-Pacific region was 5.8 percent. In 2004, GM sold 887,000 vehicles in the region and had a 5.2 percent market share.

GM also had its best year ever in Latin America, selling more than 900,000 vehicles, Wagoner said. He said the company is still tallying results in Europe but believes it was a record year there as well.

The numbers are a stark contrast to US sales, where GM lost market share last year. GM sold 4.4 million cars and trucks in the US last year for a market share of 26 percent. That was down from 27.3 percent in 2004, according to Autodata Corp.

Wagoner said the Chevrolet brand is responsible for much of the worldwide growth spurt. Chevrolet's sales rose in Asia, Europe and Latin America, he said. The brand now sells more than 4 million vehicles worldwide, or around 6 percent of all vehicles sold.

Chevrolet sales were down 3.2 percent in the US last year, but the brand was still the top-selling brand in the US, capturing those honors from Ford for the first time since 1986.

"Some of them you win by hanging around," Wagoner said.

Wagoner said the outlook for the US and Europe this year is fairly flat and that global growth will be driven by Asian markets.

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