Chevrolet is set to become General Motors’ mainstay brand in India as Bloomberg News reported that the firm plans to start selling the Subaru-designed and built Forester sport-utility vehicle there to help it achieve its target of raising sales in the country almost six times by 2005.

General Motors plans to sell 50,000 cars in India by the end of 2005, Aditya Vij, president and managing director of the company's Indian unit, told Bloomberg. The company sold about 8,500 cars last year and expects to double the number this year.

According to Bloomberg, to achieve the target, General Motors will expand its factory in Halol in the western state of Gujarat and invest a further 7.56 billion rupees ($US158 million) by 2005. It has already invested 8.44 billion rupees in India, Asia's fourth-biggest car market.

Bloomberg News said General Motors and other car makers plan to sell new vehicles in India, as rising incomes and the lowest ever interest rates for consumers encourage Indians to buy more cars. The local units of Toyota, Ford and Hyundai also plan to start selling new sports-utilities in India this year.

"India has been identified as one of the key growth markets in the region" for General Motors, Raymond Grigg, Director, General Motors (Asia Pacific), told Bloomberg.

As General Motors aims to increase its sales, it plans to cooperate with affiliates Suzuki and Fiat SPA in India, Grigg added without elaborating, Bloomberg said.

The Forester will be made by Fuji Heavy Industries, a fifth owned by General Motors, and will be imported into India, Vij told Bloomberg News.

"The Forester will be one of the several launches under the Chevrolet brand in India," Vij told Bloomberg News. "Our idea is to have the Opel brand as the premium brand in India and the Chevrolet as the mainstay brand."