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“In these emerging economies, like China and Brazil and Russia and India, there’s a lot of growth. And GM is quite well-positioned in those markets,” he said.

“In the U.S., it’s a recovery but to what will be a relatively low level of growth,” he said, noting that the historic trend on replacement volume is about 13 million a year in the U.S.

“As sales return, 13 million seems likely to happen very soon. And then we may be back to 14, 15 million. There’s a lot of upside for GM, for Ford, for Chrysler, for all of the companies in the U.S. market, to be getting a part of those sales.”

But not all car companies are as well positioned as GM to take advantage of the even faster growth overseas, he said.

For example, Ford traditionally has been stronger in the U.S. and in the 15.3-million-vehicle European market. It particularly benefited during GM’s bankruptcy from perceptions in the U.S. that its Detroit rival had become tainted as a bureaucracy-run “government motors.”

But with its traditional markets still hobbled by weak demand and a financial crunch, Ford executives said Tuesday they are looking to sell more in the global market, where they projected that auto sales will burgeon from 65 million in 2009 and 72 million in 2010 to as high as 85 million this year.

“The global economy is reaching a dynamic phase,” said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford’s chief economist, emphasizing that the best opportunities seem to lie in quickly emerging markets.