The Argentine unit of General Motors sees sales rising 7% in 2006 as the automotive industry's sharp rebound from the country's 2001-2002 economic collapse levels off, the company's president reportedly said on Thursday.

Vehicle production in Argentina, Latin America's third-largest car manufacturer, grew 31% in the first 10 months of this year compared with a year earlier, according to industry statistics, Reuters reported.

"It will be very difficult to repeat that growth. I think the industry will grow by about 7%, in line with GDP growth expectations. And GM is in line with that market average," Felipe Rovera, president of GM Argentina, told the news agency, referring to next year.

The automotive sector, along with construction, is one of the pillars of the explosive economic expansion of the past three years in Argentina, following the crisis, Reuters noted.

"Demand was very repressed. Now, (growth) will be softer," Rovera reportedly said at a business seminar.

Reuters said GM Argentina expects to produce close to 60,000 vehicles this year. Total annual Argentine output is seen at 400,000 compared with a low of 159,400 units in 2002 as the industry crumbled along with the economy.

Manufacturing, exports and sales all grew at double-digit rates between January and October of this year, the report said.

Despite the surging production, the industry still has about 50% idle capacity. GM is using 55% of its installed capacity, Rovera told Reuters.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more