If you can’t score a goal, shift the goalpost. It’s an old maxim and one that General Motors India would do well to remember. And guess what, someone’s gone and done exactly that for GM India. As you can probably recall, GM quit the Indian market earlier this year, and Stefan Jacoby, executive vice- president and president, GM International, said, “We determined that the increased investment required for an extensive and flexible product portfolio would not deliver a leadership position or long-term profitability in the domestic market.” What that means in simpler words is, no matter what GM did in India it couldn’t foresee a change in its market position.
That, though, was with the old goalpost. Come 2030, India plans to be an all-electric vehicle nation. So how does this help GM? For one, it levels the playing field for all manufacturers, and secondly, EVs is where GM actually has a slight advantage over its rivals. It already has an EV on sale, the Chevrolet Bolt, that has received many accolades and garnered good traction in international markets. Also, the car’s electric range is longer than the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf.
Of course, other carmakers have electric vehicles or have announced plans for them, but many have a longer lead time and strategies a mix of fully electric and hybrid vehicles. GM, however, has rather lofty plans; last month GM CEO Mary Barra announced an all-electric path to zero emissions in what the company calls a major element towards its vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.
Their path sees two new all-electric vehicles, based on the Bolt, which will launch in the next 18 months, following which will be at least 17 new all-electric vehicles that are due as early as 2023! More importantly, GM claims these EVs will be profitable due to a new platform and lower costs of batteries and motors.
This can play out very well for markets like India and China as they both lean towards low-cost solutions and are intended on going all electric. Though how low could the prices go, remains to be seen.
GM’s got its eye on China, a market that’s already lapping up electric vehicles. But is GM looking our way? Perhaps not. We aren’t likely to hit our 2030 target. However, we could become a large EV nation by then. And if it happens, that’s something GM could find hard to resist with its vast all-electric fleet.
Also remember, GM hasn’t completely gone out of India. While it no longer sells in our market, the American giant still operates the Talegaon plant, catering to exports. This factory has an annual production capacity of 1,60,000 units. In addition, GM has also kept its technical research centre in Bengaluru operational; it’s a unit that will no doubt be working on its future EVs.
So will GM be back in India? Well, a lot depends on whether or not we become a sizeable EV market in the first place. We’ll just have to wait and see if India’s electric ambition could help GM’s sparks fly.
GM’s all-electric plan calls for around 20 new models in the next six years.