Saudi Arabia has moved into Detroit to promote itself as an automotive hub for the Middle East and a gateway for distribution to North Africa.

The US-Saudi Arabian Business Council is hosting a conference on 26 June to introduce OEMs, suppliers and aftermarket providers to opportunities for sales, technical tie-ups, joint ventures and investment in the expanding Saudi auto market.

New vehicle sales in Saudi Arabia are booming - up 18% in 2012 over the previous year to more than 700,000 units, according to Business Monitor International. Driving demand is a rising level of young people with disposable income.

Saudi Arabia's automobile accessories, repair, and aftersales service equipment market has been valued at more than US$2.5bn while the Middle East spare parts and accessories trade is valued at around $11bn.

Isuzu has started light truck assembly in Saudi and Jaguar Land Rover has signed a letter of intent to build a manufacturing plant that could be producing 50,000 vehicles per year by 2017. Among suppliers, Johnson Controls and Denso already have joint venture operations in the country.

The USSABC conference will bring together Saudi government and industry leaders as well as US corporations such as GM, Ford, Chrysler, Dow, Alcoa, ExxonMobil Chemical, Johnson Controls and others.

Edward Burton, CEO and President of the Business Council, said: "There are lots of opportunities for US companies in the Saudi market and this programme is just the beginning of what we expect will be a long term program of ongoing activity between Detroit and Saudi Arabia."