FRANKFURT (Reuters) - General Motors expects the U.S. auto market to improve in coming months, especially in the fourth quarter, its chief executive said in a magazine interview released on Wednesday. "I think the market will improve further in the next months. The prospects for the second half of the year are clearly better, and the fourth quarter should be strong again," CEO Rick Wagoner told Germany's Manager magazine, which will publish the article this week.
A spokesman for GM Europe confirmed the comments.
Wagoner said he expected industry-wide U.S. auto sales of about 16.5 million units this year and of about 17 million vehicles again in the long run. That compares with about 16.8 million last year.
U.S. carmakers have been battling weak demand by using incentives and discounts on vehicles, which eat into profits.
Wagoner also said there was more potential for savings through GM's joint ventures in purchasing and engines with loss-making Italian carmaker Fiat Auto.
"Believe me, all the possibilities are not yet exploited," he said, without giving further details.
When asked if Fiat, in the midst of a turnaround effort including job cuts and new model launches, was to be saved, Wagoner replied:
"It is not up to me to judge. Fiat still has a relatively high market share in certain countries and a good distribution system. And I know Fiat management is doing everything it can to be successful."
He noted the company two years ago decided not to openly discuss an option Fiat has that allows it to sell the remainder of Fiat Auto to GM from next year. GM already owns 20 percent of the auto unit. Wagoner also said its European businesses, including Adam Opel, were on the road to recovery, although some work still had to be done.