General Motors' Australian unit Holden has set a new vehicle export record, breaking through the 60,000-vehicle mark for the first time in 2005.

As well as wearing Holden badges, primarily for export to neighbouring New Zealand, the unit's vehicles are also shipped overseas with Chevrolet (Brazil, Middle East, Thailand, Malaysia and South Africa), Pontiac (United States), Buick (China), GM Daewoo (South Korea) and Vauxhall (United Kingdom) branding.

Holden said new markets for its prestige Statesman and Caprice models - as a Daewoo in South Korea and a Buick in China - came on top of strong demand from established Middle East markets where the long-wheelbase cars are sold under the Chevrolet brand.

More than 27,300 were shipped, more than seven times the number sold in Australia during the year.

GM Holden exported 60,518 sedans, pickup trucks and coupes in 2005, up 16% on its previous record of 52,372 set in 2004.

The Middle East remained the strongest export market in 2005, with a record 30,556 vehicles. This included 19,438 long wheelbase Chevrolet Caprice models, also a record and an increase of 54% on the previous year.

The Pontiac GTO coupe accounted for 11,729 export units in 2005 - a total of 31,548 have been shipped to the US in three years - about 2.5 times the total number of 'down under' sales of the Holden Monaro on which it is based.

New Zealand was the third biggest export market last year, taking 8,280 vehicles.

China took 5,976 Buick Royaums while South Korea accounted for 1,878 Daewoo Statesman models.

"China and Korea provided a welcome boost to our exports for 2005, but both countries are relatively new markets and we are not expecting to repeat that performance in 2006," a Holden spokesman said.

"The strong Australian dollar combined with rising costs will make it difficult to maintain our record level of export performance in the coming years."