Asia Overtaking U.S. As Biggest Auto Market Says General Motors

Sales in Asia Pacific region will hit 21 million vehicles this year.

Asia, and not the U.S. will be the largest market for auto sales but the U.S. will remain the biggest money maker for the next decade, a senior executive at General Motors said Paul Ballew, director of GM's global market and industry analysis.

Sales in the Asia Pacific region are expected to surpass North America for the first time this year as they approach 21 million vehicles. U.S. sales are currently on pace to reach between 16 and 17 million vehicles this year.

Growth in China, India and other emerging markets will push global auto sales to a record 70 million vehicles this year, Ballew said.

"If we go back to a decade ago, 80% of global sales were in the developed market of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan and Western Europe," Ballew said."So far this year it's about 62%."

These sales are still primarily in lower-margin compact cars but there has been a significant increase in demand for luxury vehicles, he said, referring to rising Asian sales.

However even though margins in the U.S. have been falling amid increased competition and a sharp drop in demand for highly profitable but gasoline guzzling sports utility vehicles, the U.S. remains the critical market, Ballew said. " In the U.S. we anticipate will still be the most profitable market in the decade ahead and therefore you cannot be successful as a global vehicle manufacturer without being successful in the U.S.," he said."The real key is not to be dependant on the US while still being competitive in the U.S .market."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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