Chevrolet Beat shifts to top gear


The LPG model was launched a fortnight ago. Chevrolet is now hoping to rev up the car’s sales with a diesel option in June.

Karl Slym, president and MD, General Motors India, admits that his company sells as many vehicles in a year as Maruti Suzuki does in just a month.

That equation is unlikely to change in a hurry, but Slym is trying hard to improve GM’s share in the compact car segment, which accounts for 70 per cent of the total domestic sales of cars.

That’s where the Chevrolet Beat comes in – a car that helped GM push up its market share in the compact car space to 5.5 per cent last year from under 4.5 per cent a year ago.

The company is now looking to make further inroads into the segment by offering consumers more fuel option with the Beat, whose price starts at Rs 3.55 lakh. The hatchback, which was till now available only with a petrol engine, will now have a LPG+petrol variant priced at Rs 4.10 lakh. The LPG variant was launched just a fortnight ago.

GM expects a 10-15 per cent upside in overall sales of the model, which has clocked an average of 3,381 every month last year.

GM claims that a full tank on both fuels (petrol 35 litres and LPG 26.2 litre) is enough for the car to travel 1,000 kms before a refill. This translates into a mileage of 16.33 km per litre with a total outgo of Rs 3,248 (if fuel is filled in Mumbai).

The innovation doesn’t stop there. The company says that the consumer will experience no loss in engine power, when the switch to LPG from petrol is made on-the-go. Further, a sensor-based button allows the user to conveniently switch to LPG and back to petrol.

LPG is just the beginning. In June this year, GM will launch a diesel Beat as well. The 1 litre engine, to be developed in India, will be one of the smallest but will certainly not be under-powered.

Diesel is an area where Maruti Suzuki lacks options and like GM many other companies such as Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan, Skoda, Hyundai and Tata Motors, are waiting to exploit this segment. Maruti does not have a diesel engine other than the 1.3 litre seen only on the Swift and Ritz in the compact car segment.

Due to the absence of a diesel option, GM states that sales of its small cars especially the Beat was restricted as demand is increasingly getting skewed towards diesel engines. For instance, just about 30 per cent of the Ford Figo sales or about 1,800 units are for the petrol model, while the balance 4,300 units are driven by the diesel model on an average every month.

Slym says the lack of a diesel option restricted Beat sales, but that gap will be plugged soon.

There are enough reasons why the diesel option is important for Beat. Experts say the success of the LPG variant will be restricted only to those markets where the fuel is readily available. Further, GM will have competition from Maruti for the Wagon R which promises better mileage at 18.7 km per litre (petrol and diesel combined).

Meanwhile, GM is aiming for a further increase in its overall market share in the compact car segment with launches expected in the segment below the Spark (priced at 3.24 lakh) and targeted at Maruti’s Alto and other sub-segments within the compact space.

“The Beat accounts for 33 per cent of overall sales of GM in India and has a market share of 11 per cent in the sub-segment where it operates, which is expected to go up to 14 per cent after all the three fuel variants start selling in the market”, Slym says.