DETROIT – General Motors Corp. (GM), which is struggling to pull its North American automotive business out of the ditch, will sell more vehicles abroad this year than it does in the United States, according to Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner.
Wagoner made the forecast in interviews published on Friday in Detroit's two daily newspapers, saying it was the first time in the nearly 100-year history of the company that its sales overseas would exceed those in its home market.
GM is on track to sell about 4.5 million vehicles in the United States this year and 4.6 million overseas, Wagoner told the Detroit Free Press.
"That's a trend that's going to make the company look very different," he said.
As recently as 2003, GM sold 20 percent more vehicles in the U.S. market than abroad.
In addition to its expansion overseas, the shift highlights GM's shrinking share of the U.S. market, even as it becomes a leader in fast-growing overseas markets like China.
At its peak, in 1962, GM had a commanding 50.7 percent share of the U.S. market. Analysts say the automaker will end 2005 with about half that share.
Wagoner announced plans earlier this week to cut 30,000 North American manufacturing jobs and close all or part of a dozen plants over the next three years, to help bring GM's production capacity into line with its dwindling market share.
GM has lost about $4 billion so far this year, largely due to its operations in North America, where it is grappling with high labor, health-care and commodities costs.
"Our fate is going to be determined in the next three to five years on getting this business in the U.S. turned around and profitable," Wagoner told the Free Press.
GM shares were down 33 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $23.19 on the New York Stock Exchange.