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US manufacturer General Motors has reported that it expects sales in the Middle East to grow by 22% as it looks to benefit from its growing presence in the Iraq market.

John Stadwick, managing director of GM Middle East revealed that sales in the region increased by 6% in 2010.

General Motors sold 123,258 vehicles in 2010 making the region the company’s seventh largest.

Outside Brazil, Russia, India and China, the Middle East has the largest growth potential over the next decade, Stadwick told Bloomberg and could rise by 55% by 2020.

“Iraq has had a very strong performance so far this year, and it could be as large as Saudi Arabia,” John Stadwick, managing director of GM Middle East, said in an interview in Dubai yesterday. “The Middle East is a very compelling opportunity for us.”

Of the 80,487 vehicles sold in the first seven months of 2011, approximately 50% were sold in Saudi Arabia, then Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Stadwick said Iraq sales jumped 130 percent in the first six months.

“As soon as the government announced handouts, people went out and bought cars,” said Stadwick. “We’ve seen a trickle- down effect.”