GM in India

Ammar Master, Senior Manager, Asia Pacific Vehicle Forecasts

21 November 2019

Is GM about to take its final bow in India?

“It is very likely that GM’s export-only strategy is a stop-gap measure, and a complete exit cannot be ruled out in the future,” I wrote for LMC Automotive’s Asia-Pacific Light Vehicle Production Forecast in May 2017, when GM announced plans to stop selling vehicles in India, while retaining its export operation.

The automaker subsequently sold its older Halol plant to China’s SAIC Motor Corp (SAIC), but continues to produce the hatchback and sedan versions of the Beat at the Talegaon facility for export to Mexico and Latin America.

Then, in 2018, GM began discussions with JSW Energy to sell the Talegaon plant, but these talks collapsed when the latter decided to forgo plans to enter vehicle manufacturing with an electric car.

Current reports indicate that GM is in talks with SAIC and Great Wall Motors, with a view to selling the Talegaon plant. It is likely, however, that it will take some time before a clear winner emerges from GM’s discussions with the two Chinese automakers. Our market intelligence also suggests that GM will continue to build the Beat in India until the end of 2020, at least.

There can be little doubt that the Indian market has always been challenging for global OEMs. Many struggle to boost their share of India’s Passenger Vehicle market beyond 1-5%, as Maruti-Suzuki and Hyundai maintain a stranglehold, with share of close to 50% and around 20%, respectively.

More recently, GM compatriot Ford also wound down its Indian operations, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has abandoned the Fiat brand in favour of Jeep.

“Complacency would be a mistake as the only way to remain competitive and reach full production capacity at Halol will be to ensure a steady flow of new product launches.”

SAIC-owned MG Motors has made a positive start in India, but the brand would do well not to get too carried away with its initial success. Complacency would be a mistake as the only way to remain competitive and reach full production capacity at Halol will be to ensure a steady flow of new product launches. For the time being, attaining full capacity at the plant looks unlikely before 2026 – unless, of course, MG introduces more than the four models currently envisaged in our forecast.

Having said that, it would clearly be prudent and more cost-effective for SAIC to purchase a ready plant for MG’s marathon stay in India. This also applies to Great Wall, which is looking to set up shop in India to offset the slowdown in its home market.