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GM Sets New Record

General Motors gets a boost from Latin America, especially Brazil, Andean markets and Uruguay.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

Latin America continued to help U.S.-based automaker General Motors offset declining sales in the United States and Europe. Last year, GM posted an all-time sales record in its Latin America, Africa and Middle East (GM LAAM) region. Vehicle sales grew by 3.2 percent to 1.3 million, while its market share increased to 17.1 percent for the year. 

“We are pleased to post our fifth consecutive record sales year, with the Chevrolet brand continuing to lead the growth throughout the region,” Maureen Kempston Darkes, GM group vice president and president of GM LAAM, said in a statement.

The results in the LAAM area also compare favorably with Asia, where GM sales grew by 2.7 percent last year. GM will release revenue data for 2008 next week, but in the third quarter the LAAM region was the company's fastest-growing region in terms of revenues and the only profitable region, according to a Latin Business Chronicle analysis.

RECORD MARKETS

GM doesn't break down complete country data, but Latin America accounts for most of the LAAM sales. The company did reveal, though, that Brazil posted Chevrolet sales of 549,000 units last year, cementing its position as Chevrolet's second-largest market outside the United States. That marked an all-time sales record in Brazil.

Other records were set in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, while GM boosted its market share in Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The results, announced yesterday, come as GM and other automakers have had to cut back some production in Brazil after a slowdown in the last few months  Workers for General Motors in Brazil on Tuesday protested the auto manufacturer's sacking of 802 employees because of the global economic crisis and demanded they be reinstated, AFP reports. GM employees some 24,000 workers in Brazil. Magneti Marelli, the auto parts division of Fiat, also cut 800 jobs in Brazil because of falling sales, Bloomberg reported today. The cut represents 10 percent of its Brazilian workforce.

CELTA LEADS

During the first 11 months last year, GM produced a total of 583,778 units in Brazil, according to data from the local auto association Anfavea. Only Volkswagen and Fiat produced more in the same period. The Chevrolet Celta was the top GM model produced, accounting for 22.3 percent of the total.

All in all, last year marked a record year for Brazil's auto sector, where 3.2 million vehicles were produced. That was an 8.0 percent increase from 2007, which previously had been the record year, according to Anfavea.  In December, however, production fell by 54 percent compared to the same month in 2007.

The number of new car licenses grew by 14.5 percent to 2.8 million last year, also a record.  In December, they grew by 9.4 percent after falling 19.7 percent in November.

Brazilian exports of vehicles reached 727,283 units last year, a decline of 7.9 percent compared to 2007. However, the total value of vehicle exports in dollar terms grew by 1.5 percent to $11.1 billion. 

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