GM: Foreign Markets Are Key To Growth

General Motors plans to introduce 70 new or upgraded vehicles in international markets...

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Co. plans to introduce 70 new or upgraded vehicles in international markets by 2014 as it tries to expand business in areas it considers key to its growth.

Company executives told financial analysts on Tuesday that GM is the industry leader in the combined markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China. GM is holding meetings for analysts to lay the groundwork for a public stock sale that could come later this year.

President of International Operations Tim Lee said GM has been the sales leader in China past five years, with sales growing 67 percent since 2008. He said GM is on track to be the first global automaker to sell more than 2 million vehicles in China this year. GM says overall auto sales in China will rise 20 percent this year to 16.5 million.

Under questioning from analysts, Lee said he is worried that competitors are building inventory in China, and that may force discounts. But so far he said GM has not had to cut prices and has continued to grow its market share to 13.3 percent.

In North America, President Mark Reuss said GM has made tremendous progress since it emerged from bankruptcy last July. The company, he said, is selling vehicles for about $3,000 more than it did a year ago, with rebates and other incentives down by $1,200.

The company also has controlled inventory, he said, with about 400,000 cars and trucks on dealers' lots, about half of what it had a year ago.

GM is using its factories at a far higher capacity than it did in the past, Reuss said. The company has closed 12 plants in North America since 2005. Currently GM is using about 85 percent of its factory capacity, and factories making newer vehicles such as the Chevrolet Equinox midsize sport utility vehicle and Buick LaCrosse sedan are running at 100 percent, Reuss said.

Mark James, vice president and chief financial officer of Opel/Vauxhall Europe, said GM expects to break even in Europe by 2011 and be profitable going forward. He said the company plans 8,300 layoffs that should be completed by the end of 2011, including 7,000 manufacturing workers. The company also is seeking employee concessions worth 265 million euros ($322.9 million) per year, including wage freezes, benefit reductions and the elimination of bonus payments.

"We are confident that we will restructure and we will complete the planned employee and capacity reductions," he said.

AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.