General Motors expects its new vehicle sales in the Middle East to grow to about 100,000 cars and trucks annually by 2005 or 2006, up from about 60,000 this year, the GM head of the region said on Monday, according to Reuters.

The news agency said GM is expanding its line-up in the region with 20 new models, including new Cadillacs and the Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle for the high end of the market, plus small South Korean [Daewoo] cars made at GM's joint venture plant [and targeted at] young buyers.

"A growth segment of the market for General Motors, and one that we have not participated in before, is in the small affordable segment of the market," Maureen Kempston Darkes, GM's president of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East regions, told Reuters.

"The one interesting factor about the region is that 40% of the population is under the age of 14," she told Reuters at a US-Arab economic conference in Detroit, adding: "They need affordable transportation, and we intend to introduce products to meet that need."

Reuters said GM recently began shipping three new cars from its GM Daewoo Automotive and Technology joint venture in South Korea to expand sales in the low end of the market and added that the new Chevrolet Aveo, which will also go on sale in the United States this autumn, will be priced at around $US7,000 in the Middle East. Previously, GM's lowest priced vehicle in the region was the Chevrolet Cavalier, which sold for about $12,000, GM officials told the news agency.

Kempston Darkes reportedly said the new cars should help boost sales in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and help GM boost its share of the Middle East market from about 8% currently.

Reuters said GM recently completed building a $40 million parts distribution warehouse in Dubai to cut the delivery time of parts to 72 hours from months previously. The warehouse will also allow GM to tap the growing market for aftermarket parts, allowing customers to customise their vehicles, the report added.

"The biggest opportunity for growth is in the service sector," Kempston Darkes told Reuters, adding: "People in this region of the world like to accessorise their vehicles just as much as people in North America."