General Motors India slipped two spots this year to seventh on the list of India's largest vehicle sellers. The company, which retails the Chevrolet brand in the country, recorded the worst sales slide among mass market car makers at nearly 24 per cent in April-May. However, that hasn't stopped the company from going ahead with new product launch plans. Tim Lee, president, international operations, General Motors, tells Swaraj Baggonkar about the auto maker’s plans. Edited excerpts:
GM India saw a decline of 27 per cent in sales in May. What are you thoughts on this?
It's a challenging business environment for all auto makers in India right now, with a number of external economic factors having an impact. We are doing everything within our control to address this situation, including introducing a number of exciting models into key segments, where we haven't had strong offerings in the past. This includes the upcoming launch of Chevrolet Sail hatchback and Enjoy MPV — the first two products from our joint venture with SAIC (Motor Corp). Both have been tailored for local market conditions and the needs of local consumers for economical, user-friendly personal transportation.
Most analysts tracking the sector provide a bleaker outlook for the market in the coming quarters. Has GM India scaled back, or reduced any of its scheduled investment?
Despite the challenging environment, we remain committed to our goal of becoming a volume player in India. We have already made the required investments to create capacity and implement a number of exciting product programmes, which we intend to launch in the coming months and years.
GM India has a couple of strong offerings in the compact car segment (Spark and Beat). Do you think there should be more small cars in your portfolio which will allow you to better tap demand?
We are already having three options in the compact car segment. These include Spark, Beat and Aveo Uva and these vehicles come in petrol, diesel and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) options, depending upon the models. Beat diesel is the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the Indian market today with a mileage of 25.44 km per litre. Beyond this, we are also preparing for the launch of Chevrolet Sail premium hatchback, which will be a strong addition to our mini-car portfolio in India. It will bring a new sense of vitality to the biggest, fastest-growing and most competitive segment in the domestic passenger car market. Following the Sail, we will introduce the Chevrolet Enjoy.
A lot of sales has moved towards diesel today in India. What steps has GM India taken to tap this opportunity?
We will continue to offer a mix of petrol and diesel models across our portfolio. However, our engine plant is flexible enough to adapt to changing consumer trends, with the ability to produce both petrol and diesel engines.
With the global alliance with French car maker Peugeot now in place, how do you see this getting enacted in India?
The GM and PSA Peugeot Citroën alliance is an important partnership for GM. It will have a positive effect on our company worldwide, particularly in Europe. We expect it to have long-term benefits globally. However, it's too soon to say how it will impact India and the Asia Pacific region.
Is the launch of commercial vehicles (with SAIC) on track for India?
Yes. Our joint venture with SAIC is helping lay the foundations for GM’s future success in India by offering new and exciting products faster and in a greater number of segments, including premium hatchbacks and sedans, as well as multi-purpose vehicles. We are looking forward to introducing a number of great new products from our partnership, beginning with Chevrolet Sail in September followed by the Enjoy MPV in the last quarter of this year.