ZURICH -- General Motors has high hopes for future auto sales in Russia and other eastern European markets.
Sales in Russia of GM's Opel and Daewoo brands rose to 8,339 units in 2003 from 3,400 units in 2002. Most of the models sold were Opels.
GM says it now sells more cars in Russia than any other non-domestic brand.
Russian consumers are rapidly turning away from cheap, old-fashioned domestic auto brands and buying western-style vehicles instead, said Michael Burns, GM Europe's departing president. Burns takes over as CEO of Dana March 1. He will be replaced at GM Europe by Fritz Henderson.
"Our market share in Russia more than tripled in 2003, up to 2.7 percent from 0.7 percent," Burns said.
He expects Russian new-car sales to rise between 5 percent and 7 percent annually.
GM has a joint-venture assembly plant with the Russian automaker AvtoVAZ at Togliatti, south of Moscow.
GM has invested heavily in the plant, virtually rebuilding the assembly line and paint shop for production of the old Astra T3000 and the Chevrolet-based Niva SUV.
GM will also continue to produce the old Astra at its plants in the Ukraine and Poland. It will be badged as the Astra Classic.