Chevrolet’s trials and tribulations in India. A brief history of the company leading to it’s demise in the Indian market
In a sad and unexpected development, Chevrolet India has declared, it is pulling all it’s models out of India. Which came as a surprise as last year the Chevvy CEO had confirmed India as a stretegic market in the scheme of things.
A brief History about the company
Chevrolet is an automobile division under the granddaddy of automobile manufacturers, the General Motors. The company has a universal presence and is known in the world for a plethora of reasons. Reasons other than being a part of the third largest automobile manufacturer in the world. Chevrolet in the various automobile markets of the world has produced some fine examples to be remembered by.
The company has produced cars like the Corvette, the Camaro and the Volt with numbers that go beyond reckoning. It has an essential place in the block of history dealing with the American muscle era. It is unimaginable to talk about American history without mentioning about a “Chevy”. Thus when such a mammoth construct makes it way to Indian shores and sets up shop, the expectations from it are pretty high. This was the case when Chevrolet returned to India in 2003. Yes, the company returned in 2003 after a hiatus of almost fifty years.
Few know that Chevrolet was the first company to make its way to the Indian shores way back in 1928. The company was also among the first to set up an office in Sewri, Mumbai. The company left India amidst the pro-socialist wave rampant in the country in the 1950s. When a company with this rich history and with a name that is this big languishes at the bottom of the table in the country, it is bound to turn heads. It is bound to turn heads in the wrong direction.
Chevrolet in India:
Chevrolet today finds itself in troubled waters in India. The company makes up for less than 1% of the car sales in the world’s fastest growing automobile market. The figures especially hurt when one takes into account the number of cars the company has released in the Indian markets. With no less than eight offerings to the automobile industry of India, it is baffling to see that not one among those eight has stoked the Indian imagination. Yes there was the Cruze and it was a great one, but that exactly is what we are discussing here.
Cruze was the only true Chevy released in the Indian markets. This particular point will be elaborated on further down the line. For now, let’s talk about the situation General Motors Chevrolet division has buried themselves in. In January, the General Motors division revealed that the loss the company suffers in the Indian markets has increased to INR 1100 crores. It is further plagued by lackluster resolutions that the company takes, like the resolution of doubling their presence in the Indian markets by 2020.
The market share of the company is 1% today, seriously do they want to make it to 2% and just 2% by 2020. And then the investment that was planned to achieve this doubling of market share was further postponed due to lack of performance.
We also hear news of Halol plant of the company in Gujarat being shut down. It does not take an expert to see that the company is focusing on the export opportunities through its operations in India. But that does not necessarily have to be the case. Hang the plans of doubling the market share in the country when your market share in the country is 1% to begin with.
Learn from your cousin Ford and score a winner like Ford did with the Ecosport. Make this the next immediate objective of your operations in the country. And then entertain thoughts of expanding your market share. Introduce a model that the people of this country yearn for and it is not like you don’t have such models in your stable.
What plagued the Chevrolet motors division in India.
Multiple past ownership reports will tell you that the real problem with Cheverolet cars is maintenance.
With the policy of very less child part system, even for a minor repair the whole assembly change is needed. Eg if your mirror is broken in Chevy Beat instead of the mirror whole assembly needs to be replaced. So cost of the actual damaged part Rs. 100/-. Cost needed for repairs Rs. 2500/- Plus. This really dented the image of Cheverolet in India and price conscious consumer moved away.
Due to low sales and high maintenance, Chevrolet always commanded a poor resale value. Ultra competitive resale market rejected the brand as whole. Still those who swore by Chevvys bought them. And these are the people who have every right to get annoyed most.
The whole decision to move out of India is in really bad taste. As the strategy decisions are taken with future considered, it is unbelievable GM was not aware about this plan to leave India. What is a more grievous concern is the outright falsehood of claims made by Chief Executive Officer of General Motors Mary Barra. It can be constituted as a misleading statement about $1 Billion investment planned for India. The Indian consumer has every right to feel cheated by the sudden pull out. Specially those who have purchased the vehicles recently.
The resale value which was already pretty bad will find a new bottom. Even though GM has said it will continue providing spares and services, it is already difficult to find spares.Sometimes even the spares are on longer waiting period compared to the car itself.
The playing Judas attitude was visible as the recent newspapers were full of adverts giving special rates for Chevrolet Cruze, the only model somewhat respected on the Indian motoring scene.
However the silver lining will be some great vehicles will be available in the market at a great bargain. By December we should see unprecedented discounts on slow movers like Trailblazer.
The Story so far—
Let’s take a look at Chevrolet India’s journey so far. The company when it came to the Indian markets in 2003 did not come bringing the characteristic strong engines. Rather it brought cheap plastic drivel from over the mountains to stuff down our throats. It entered with models like Forester and Optra, one was from the Japanese brand of Subaru and the other one was from the Korean Daewoo. None of the both was from the American Chevrolet. Indians remember Chevrolet for the long, low, sleek and classy Chevrolet Impala.
Downtrend of Chevrolet:
The car that was a sign of prestige in the socialist times of Indian history. Naturally, these plastic and amorphous knockoffs would have incited a reflux action from the consumers, which they did. And the disappointed Indian consumers then kept their distance from these cars as much as possible. Still, Chevrolet was unwilling to learn and in the years that followed the Indian markets saw more of these Chinese and Korean cars. They were repackaged and relabeled yet none of them translated into sales. It is not like we don’t like Chinese or Korean cars, we just can’t have cheap knockoffs running rampant in our markets.
Cars with quality even if from the east, like the Korean Hyundai have been loved by the Indian masses. But you can’t expect us to shower the same love to Chevrolet Enjoy. So stop treating the Indian market like a sister market of China or Korea. The strategy that makes Chevrolet successful in those countries doesn’t seem to work here.
The only car that stands apart in the current lineup is the Chevrolet Cruze. Consequently that is the only car of the company that Indians consider as a true star spangled Chevy. In India, Chevrolet feels like just another brick in the wall, it feels like just another car manufacturer. There is no feature that the brand has chosen to identify itself by.
The Indian masses yearn and have been yearning for some stock Chevrolet models for some time now. We yearn for Chevrolet Impala or even Chevrolet Malibu, and all we get it is Chevrolet Sail. Tap into the SUV section, India as a country is crazy about SUVs. Introduce the Trailblazer or even Tahoe, the models that you are identified by in the west. Introduce Chevrolet Trax.For the mini-SUV segment of the country. Show us the potential that this company is identified by beyond our shores rather than just hanging your boots and waiting for a miracle.
Other Automobile companies:
Tata motors in India stands apart for VFM (Value for Money), Hyundai stands apart for looks and styling, Honda for Japanese efficiency, Toyota for reliability and Maruti stands apart as the quintessential car of the Indian public. What does Chevrolet stand for is a big blank, and it has been left blank for quite some time now?