We plan to renew our portfolio

Written by RajeshRavi | Updated: Nov 2 2012, 03:31am hrs
General Motors (GM) India is betting big on the launch of Chevrolet Sail U-VA, which is expected in the market in November. The Sail has done very well in China and GM expects the small diesel engine (SDE), which has been designed specifically for the Indian market, to take on competition and bring volumes. The Sail hatchback will have a 1.3-litre diesel engine option and 1.2-litre petrol variant. During 2011, GM India sold 1,11,510 units against 1,10,804 units in 2010. Rajesh Ravi spoke to Lowell Paddock, president and managing director of GM India, at Amby Valley, where the carmaker gave the media a test drive of the new vehicle. Edited excerpts:

How important is the launch of Chevrolet Sail U-VA for GM India

Very important. First reason is that we are not strongly present in the segment that we are launching and the second is that this segment is growing in the total market. So, the right car, right segment and at the right time is very important for us.

GM India seems to be focusing a lot on the SDE. Are you looking at diesel version of Sail to be a major driver in the Indian market

I think it all depends on where the market goes. Right now, given the continuing momentum in the diesel segment, we have a world-class diesel engine that we developed in 2004. We are very happy with its reliability. We have built millions of these in the European market. So, bringing this engine to India, which is a diesel market, was very natural. But I would also say that the petrol version is also very satisfying.

You reported that the Sail is doing very well in China. How do you compare both the markets

I think there are some similarities and many differences. The similarities are, the interest in small cars. Same interest in many cars and a very diverse small-car market. The Sail has done very well in China because of that. Speed barriers are severe in China as well as India.

The differences are in terms of broader variety of road conditions in India. Obviously diesel is very critical in India. More cars in these markets are driven than other markets.

How is GM doing in India Are you happy with your performance

We are fluctuating between 3% and 4% growth. It is not a performance that I am happy with. Part of the reason is that we dont have presence in some of the segments and are not present with competitive products in some segments. So, we are looking at renewing our portfolio. Starting with the Beat diesel, a vehicle that was developed with India in mind, and after that we updated the Cruze. It has been a great seller for us. Now, coming to the Sail, we have spent a lot of effort on it. I am pleased to hear many people say that we have been able to nail the diesel performance of the car. People like the roominess and quietness of the car.

So, going forward into 2013 with the Beat gaining momentum and the Sail getting to its feet, you could see a much stronger presence from GM.

Coming to the car market in India, reports say that demand has been a bit sluggish lately. Your opinion

Sluggish is an understatement because in the August-September period the market was half of what it was in March. It is more than a bit But when I look at the efforts on the part of the government, there is more confidence from the part of the consumers. In the second quarter, all we read was about the depressing problems of the market and economy. But now, there is some momentum. It may not go back to the 2009 and 2010 period, but certainly there is a cautious optimism that the worst is behind us.

Hyundai and Suzuki are exporting lot of automobiles from India. Are you looking at exports as a source of revenue

What we want to do is to get us ourselves into a solid footing here. We have the capability to export, but then it is a question of the right time. The world has recognised that India is a low-cost, reliable source for the manufacturing of high quality products. So India is a natural export opportunity. But we have not determined when to start exports from India.