General Motors India Managing Director Karl Slym speaks to Kushan Mitra about the carmaker's growth over the past few years and plans for 2011.
On rising sales: We did not have the right product portfolio, particularly small cars, to address the Indian market. With the Spark and the Beat, we now have it.
On diesel engines: The Indian market sees diesel as a more cost-effective fuel and is willing to pay the premium. In fact, we did not even launch the petrol version when we brought the Cruze. We feel the new diesel engine option on the Beat will help it take on competition.
On safety features: More and more people are buying vehicles fitted with safety features such as the anti-lock braking system and airbags. However, it is impossible for a carmaker to force buyers to go for these features. These features are expensive and customers could choose to buy a cheaper car with no features. This is an area where regulation would be a good idea.
On GM India's Chinese partner: GM sold a 50 per cent stake to Chinese partner Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corp in the Indian manufacturing and marketing operations. SAIC is China's largest carmaker with GM and Volkswagen tie-ups.
On the Bangalore centre: Our Bangalore Engineering Centre is the jewel in GM India's crown. Each one of our recent launches has been re-developed at Bangalore, which brought them up to Indian specifications. From fuel-quality and alternative fuels to the automatic gearbox on the Cruze, they were all developed in Bangalore.
On launches in 2011: We have a busy launch calendar. We have already launched a new Super Tech engine developed in Bangalore and have a diesel Beat coming soon. Six products are in the line for the next two years. Four cars are coming into India by 2012-end across the product range - hatchbacks, sedans and sports utility vehicles. We will also bring two light commercial vehicles developed by SAIC into India, hopefully this year.