GM exec projects U.S. auto sales to grow by 2 million vehicles in 2010

An executive with General Motors said Friday the company sees U.S. auto sales growing by 2 million next year.

General Motors Vice President Brent Dewar said GM is projecting the U.S. market will end 2009 at 10.5 million vehicles sold and grow to 12.5 million next year as consumer confidence improves.

He said August sales for the Chevrolet brand were strong but there will be a payback in September. The government's cash for clunkers program definitely pulled sales forward from later in the year.

He said the program boosted sales for smaller cars. But he said new product sales such as the Chevrolet Camaro muscle car and Equinox crossover vehicle are continuing to be strong even after the program ended.

Dewar said Chevrolet now makes up 50% of GM's global sales but is expected to rise to 60% or 65% next year as GM winds down its Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer brands.

Susan Docherty, general manager for GM's Buick-GMC-Pontiac brands, said GM is targeting 3 million "free agents" who drive vehicles from discontinued GM brands or models in an effort to keep them as customers.

The company plans to approach them with targeted e-mails and other messages, learning from its experience phasing out the Oldsmobile brand.

"We do not want to lose one customer," she said.

GM likely will sell out its remaining Pontiacs by the end of the year, far faster than projected, Docherty said. GM expected to keep selling Pontiacs until the third quarter of next year, but will be down only 15,000 or 16,000 by next week.

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