General Motors Co. expects 2013 sales of Chevrolet vehicles to reach 5 million for the first time in GM’s 100-year history, spurred in part by growth in the Middle East, said the global head of Chevrolet, Alan Batey.
“When I look out and think about where we need to take the brand, the Middle East is a significant part of that opportunity,” he said in Dubai today at an event for the media.
Chevrolet sales worldwide in 2012 were just under this year’s outlook, at 4.95 million, GM said. About 65 percent of Chevrolet’s sales have come from outside North America as it focuses on emerging markets, Batey said. Top markets for growth are the U.S., China, Russia, Mexico and Brazil, he said.
Political unrest hasn’t hurt GM’s sales in the Middle East, where it expects continued growth, said John Stadwick, president and managing director of the company’s operations in the region.
“Is there concern today with what’s happening in Syria? I’d say probably more so in the Levant countries than maybe GCC countries. We’ve not seen a downturn,” Stadwick told reporters in Dubai today, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council. “We haven’t seen what’s happening in Egypt, Syria or Lebanon affect the overall market. The Egyptian operation is exceeding their sales forecast.”
The Middle East ranks among GM’s top 10 markets, doing $5 billion of business last year, according to Stadwick. GM has an estimated 10 percent market share in the Middle East, though there are no official market numbers, he said. The U.S. automaker reported a 3.9 percent increase in its second-quarter sales in July.
The auto industry is expected to continue growing in the Middle East at an annual rate of 4 percent to 5 percent, a slower pace than the 7 percent to 9 percent growth in the three years since uprisings in the Arab world began, he said. GM aims to outpace that forecast, Stadwick added.
“The demographics are right here: a young population, incomes are growing, the GDP is better, the stars are aligned for growth in this part of the region,” he said.
There is a “90 percent correlation” between oil prices and car sales in the region, Stadwick said. The regional turmoil pushes up oil prices, governments get higher oil revenue and have more money to spend on roads and infrastructure, with the trickle-down effect of people making more money to spend on cars, he said.