The auto industry will grow at a faster pace than the economy as a whole in 2012.
A new report by R.L. Polk says that faster pace will be largely driven by demand for cars in China.
Last year, the Chinese government ended subsidies for fuel-efficient cars, and as a result, car sales in that country declined from the breakneck pace of 2010.
But Anthony Pratt of Polk says the Chinese middle class is still growing, as people move by the millions from the countryside into urban areas.
"So outside of Shanghai, Beijing, (there's) many.....cities the average American may not even be familiar with, (that) would likely dwarf many of the Western cities we’re all very familiar with," says Pratt.
Pratt expects a 16 percent boost in auto sales in China -- compared to 6.7 percent growth globally, and 7.3 percent growth in the U.S.
He says GM is well-positioned in China to capitalize on the growth. But he also expects to see domestic Chinese car companies increasing their sales this year.
Global demand for luxury vehicles will be especially strong.
"It’s the more affluent buyers that seem to be in a position to purchase vehicles," says Pratt, "and there are quite a few new vehicle launches in the luxury segment that will be available and likely attract people to the showroom."
Pratt says the demand for luxury cars will benefit Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in particular.