General Motors on Tuesday said it was creating a new regional organisation to meet rising customer demand in South America.

GM South America will be headquartered in Sao Paulo, Brazil and headed by Jaime Ardila, currently president and general manager of GM Mercosur. Ardila becomes president, GM South America and will report direct to chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre.

“Jaime’s number one priority will be to ensure the very best for our customers in this important and growing region,” Whitacre said.

GM South America includes GM’s existing sales and manufacturing operations in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela as well as sales activities in those countries and Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

The unit has 29,000 employees and develops its own vehicle models on the automaker’s global platforms. In the first five months of the year, GM sold 394,000 vehicles in South America where market share was 20.2%.

“The GM International Operations team is doing a great job expanding our global presence,” said Whitacre. “However, with the rapidly growing markets in Asia, the Middle East and Russia, we need the GMIO team focused exclusively on those countries that are critical to our growth.”

Denise Johnson, currently GM’s labour relations chief will become president and managing director of GM do Brazil from 1 July, reporting to Ardila.

GM North America manufacturing manager, Catherine Clegg, succeeds Johnson and will report to Diana Tremblay who heads manufacturing and labour relations.