General Motors has said it sees 2009 US vehicle sales plunging to their lowest level for 27 years and has trimmed its forecast to match.

It is now planning on a circa-10.5m unit year for the industry, a tally not seen since 1982, Reuters reported.

With sales also falling in once-buoyant emerging markets such as Russia and Brazil, GM also faces pressures to cut costs there.

Reuters noted that GM only last month projected 3009 US sales of 12m units in a turnaround plan it submitted as a condition of $13.4bn in emergency loans from the federal government, and now looked like posting a fifth straight year of losses before returning to the black in 2010.

Analysts’ forecasts vary between about 10.2m and 12.5m units for 2009.

“The US economy and global economies have faced an unprecedented series of challenges over the past year,” GM CEO Rick Wagoner told an analysts presentation in the US this week, citing a risk of “global recession unlike any we have seen in the last 70 years.”

Chief operating officer Fritz Henderson said: “At this point, I’m not sure anyone can predict what’s happening in the auto industry in terms of volumes.”

Since submitting its recovery plan to the government, GM has cut its global sales forecasts by almost 10% to 6.3m units for 2009.

Henderson said Europe had followed the US market into a deep downturn with a lag of about four months.

“The market in Europe is extraordinarily challenging, and I expect that to continue in 2009,” he said, according to Reuters.

He pledged “tough action” to cut costs in GM’s offshore operations.