After a long journey of assembling cars in India, General Motors started production in the country in 1996 to cater more effectively. Today, it has become a prominent name in Indian automobile market, P BALENDRAN, Vice President, General Motors India discusses with MOHD MUSTAQUIM about the company's journey challenges and future roadmap
How has been the journey of General Motors in India, especially in rural?
We entered India in 1996 to become one of the serious players in this market. We had worked very hard to reach this stage. As far as the rural journey is concerned, we have thousands of satisfied customers especially with Tavera and Chevrolet Enjoy MUVs. Launched in 2004, Tavera has completed a decade of existence in India. Even Chevrolet Enjoy has seen a great deal of demand from large families in rural areas. In fact, the share of rural market has also gone up over the recent years.
How do you see the growth of automobile market in Rural India?
The rural markets have come a long way with increased vehicle penetration and more new car buyers owing to improved incomes. The creation of additional jobs in various manufacturing sectors have also brought more four-wheeler buyers. However, the rural economy depends on the condition of the overall economy and vice-versa. In a slowing economy, rural areas are badly affected and this is what we have seen over the past two years. The rural markets have not shown as much growth as expected over the past two years as a result of the long and protracted economic slowdown.
Affordability and post-sale services are the major factors in rural market, how does GM customise them for rural consumers?
For a period of three years, we have pledged to refund any extra maintenance costs incurred by our customers along with many other amenities such as 24x7 free roadside assistance and extended warranty for up to five years at a nominal cost. The programme has received an encouraging response from our customers.
What different strategies have you adopted for the rural markets?
We regularly conduct various marketing initiatives like road shows, service camps and other special customer-focused initiatives for our Chevrolet car owners. These have resulted in a positive word-of-mouth and experience for our customers in rural markets. For instance, Chevy U-First Camps are held regularly where the customer can bring their vehicle for a free check-up to ensure that our customers vehicles perform in the best way. We use multiple media platforms including print, television and digital campaigns, to reach out to the end consumer and to grab the pulse of the mass market.
What recent models have you launched to cater to the rural consumers?
We launched All New SAIL Hatchback and Sedan in September which have received encouraging response from the customers. The SAIL twins have been specially designed for emerging markets like India, taking into account the special needs of consumers like solid ride quality for our potholed roads, huge space and storage amenities apart from safety – the car has received very good ratings by global safety testing agencies such as C-NCAP. Apart from SAIL, we also launched All New Beat and Updated Cruze in 2014. We have also launched special editions like Manchester United Beat and SAIL hatchbacks earlier in the year which received a great response.
Kindly throw some light on the success story of any of your models.
General Motors has recently completed sales of more than one million Chevrolet Beat models worldwide. It is to be noted that following its huge success in India, the Chevrolet Beat was subsequently launched in other parts of the world. It continues to be India’s most efficient diesel hatchback with a mileage of 25.44 kmpl. Available in both petrol and diesel engines, it has sold more than 178,000 units in India alone. This demonstrates the growing acceptance of Chevrolet’s small car lineup, attracting more people to the brand around the world.
India is a country of rural fairs and festivals, how seriously do you consider them to promote your products?
Tailor-made schemes are launched for different regions on various festivals to directly connect with our customers. Whether it is Onam, Diwali or even the year-end offers, we offer customised and attractive offers on our products. We have recently launched a scheme on our cars with offers up to Rs 95,000 on Beat, up to Rs 85,500 on Chevrolet Enjoy and up to Rs 60,000 on Cruze. These include cash discounts, exchange and loyalty bonuses.
What key learning have you got while catering to rural markets?
Overall, road connectivity and infrastructure in rural areas is still not up to the mark which deters buyers from going for a new vehicle. There are various modes of public transport which people in rural areas continue to use owing to the lack of road infrastructure. We are hopeful that the new Government will fulfill its promises of building new highways and increased road connectivity in remote areas to aid the transportation industry.