Australian General Motors arm Holden Ltd on Friday said it expected General Motors’ 2004 Asia Pacific profit to exceed $US750 million, up from $577 million last year, driven by growth in China, Reuters reported.

“Profit wise, we made over half a billion dollars in Asia Pacific last year, we are looking at over three quarters of a billion-plus this year,” Holden’s managing director and chairman, Dennis Mooney, reportedly told a conference.

Reuters noted that GM in January said it expected Asia Pacific earnings to grow in the range of $700 million to $800 million in calendar 2004 – GM posted a 58% leap in first half vehicle sales in China to a record 259,653 units after it slashed prices in the world’s fastest-growing major car market.

In Australia’s $A17 billion ($US12 billion) auto industry, Mooney said he expected prices of new cars to fall further as tariffs for imported cars fell and competition increased, the report said, – as part of legislation passed last year, imported car tariffs will fall to 10% from 15%.

Earlier this year, Holden announced it would withdraw the GM Daewoo brand from Australia by the end of 2004 because of intense price competition from Japanese manufacturers, Reuters noted.

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Holden’s biggest rival in the Australian market is Toyota, which has a 21.3% market share. Holden has an 18.7% market share with sales in the first six months of this year at 88,381, the news agency’s report added.