The US auto industry will grow slowly, with next year’s sales possibly rising slightly from 2011, a top General Motors executive told a conference in New York.

“We continue to believe that the industry will grow; it will grow slowly, along with the economy and it will be flat to slightly up in 2012,” US sales chief Don Johnson said, according to Reuters.

“We actually like this slow growth,” he added. “For us, it is a better environment within which to plan and we prefer to have less uncertainty, less volatility.”

The US sales pace on an annual basis in October finished at 13.3m vehicles, the highest level since February. Johnson said on Tuesday GM expects sales in November to finish at a pace of around 14m. GM’s outlook includes medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which typically account for about 200,000 to 300,000 sales.

Johnson said also GM’s share loss in October in the US market was not an indicator for the entire year. He said new products were the main reason for overall gains this year, rather than the impact of the Japan earthquake in March and the more recent floods in Thailand that have hurt Japanese rivals.

Johnson said there will likely be a “short-term downward pressure” on GM and other non-Japanese companies as loyal customers of the Japanese automakers who have been on the sidelines return. However, he expects GM’s share of the US retail sales market to remain in the 17%1 to 17.5% range.

“When you look at what’s happened in the last year and you look at the share gains we’ve made, some of that is attributable to lack of inventory of our competitors, but the majority of that is attributable to our new products, our brand focus.”