General Motors plans to sell cars in the United States that it makes in China, starting in 2011. That could make GM the first major automaker to import Chinese cars to the US market.

The carmaker expects to sell about 17,335 of the China-made vehicles in the US in 2011, and triple that number to 51,546 in 2014, a planning document circulated by GM among US lawmakers showed.

The gains would come, the document says, as GM's total US sales surge 50 per cent in the next five years.

The plans are subject to change pending the outcome of negotiations with United Auto Workers (UAW).

Many of these vehicles are likely to be small cars similar to the upcoming Chevy Spark, which will be built in South Korea, though the models will be different from any currently built in the US by any automaker, an industry official said.

Even at the higher 2014 level, though, cars from China would still account for only 1.6 per cent of GM's 3.1 million total expected sales in the US that year, the 12-page document says.

The automaker is trying to meet a government-imposed June 1 deadline to restructure and cut over US$40 billion ($67 billion) in debt, or risk bankruptcy.

The UAW has criticised GM's restructuring plan because of its envisioned increases in US sales of cars made overseas.

"We are in dialogue with the UAW, and my view of a dialogue is that it is a good idea to have an open book on all the different subjects," GM CEO Fritz Henderson said. "We have a philosophy of building where we sell. We think that's the right thing to do, and the most profitable thing historically."

UAW has criticised GM plans to increase US sales from other countries.

"GM should not be taking taxpayers' money simply to finance the outsourcing of jobs to other countries," a letter to senators from UAW legislative director Alan Reuther said.

The document also reveals plans to sharply increase sales of GM cars made in Mexico and South Korea while reducing the number made in Canada.

GM's American-made vehicles would hold steady during the five-year period at about two-thirds of the total sold domestically. AP