Mike Stevens | May 13, 2009

In a move that could see dramatic effects on employment in the US auto industry, General Motors will be the first automaker to import Chinese-built cars into the United States, according to Automotive News.

Citing a leaked document revealed to lawmakers overseeing the restructuring of the auto giant, the respected US industry broadsheet reports that GM is planning to market Chinese-built cars to American buyers as early as 2011.

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GM expects to sell about 17,335 of the China-made vehicles in its first year of US sales, before tripling that number to 51,546 in 2014, according to the leaked planning document.

The gains would come, the document says, with GM's total US sales surging 50 percent in the next five years.

General Motors is the top-selling foreign automaker in China, and Buick is the number one brand overall in China’s growing market. It is in part for this reason that the nameplate was saved during a recent round of cuts that included the elimination of Pontiac.

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An example of the growing influence of the Chinese market on the American manufacturer is the interior of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse sedan, which was designed at a GM studio in Shanghai.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson said yesterday, "We are in dialogue with the UAW (Union of Auto Workers), and my view of a dialogue is that it is a good idea to have an open book on all the different subjects."

"We have a philosophy of building where we sell, and not only do we think that is the right thing to do, but the most profitable thing to do historically."

The UAW has been critical of plans to move production overseas and stated in a May 5 letter to the US Senate, "GM should not be taking taxpayers' money simply to finance the outsourcing of jobs to other countries."

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The leaked GM document also reveals plans to significantly increase sales of cars the company builds in Mexico and South Korea, while reducing the number made in Canada.

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