Asia overtaking US as biggest auto market: GM

CHICAGO, July 19, 2007 (AFP) – Asia is overtaking the United States as the largest market for auto sales, but the US will remain the more lucrative market for the next decade, a senior executive at General Motors said Thursday.

Overall industry sales in the Asia Pacific region are expected to surpass North America for the first time this year as they approach 21 million vehicles, said Paul Ballew, director of GM’s global market and industry analysis.

US 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 percent of global sales were in the developed market of the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Western Europe,” Ballew said in a conference call.
“So far this year it’s about 62 percent.”

He said demand across Asia was still primarily for lower-margin compact cars, but noted a significant increase in demand for luxury vehicles.

“As these markets become more prosperous the buyers will become more aspirational,” Ballew predicted.

GM has been struggling to maintain domestic momentum of late, its sale