We Have A Dedicated Strategy In India: Mary Barra, CEO GM

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We Have A Dedicated Strategy In India: Mary Barra, CEO GMMary Barra, General Motors’ first woman CEO, says the auto maker isn’t bothered about the past and is focused on the future.

In an interaction with the media in New Delhi – held between two meetings she had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Commerce Minister Nirmala Seetharaman – the 34-year GM veteran fielded questions with elan.

When asked what went wrong with GM in India, with a less than 3per cent market share after 18 years and $1 billion of investment, she said “a lot of things went right too in India”.

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Striving to make a new beginning in Indian operations that have been plagued with alleged technical fudging and safety recalls, Barra said GM plans to start afresh with the Indian unit as an export base, shipping its first car to Chile. Exports to Mexico and Colombia are also on the cards. Edited excerpts:

On General Motors in India and the way forward…

It starts with putting customers at the centre. In India, they have great options and choices. We came to India with vehicles that are great in quality and also bear a good life-time experience.

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We were one of the foremost auto makers to start assembly operations as early as 1928 in India. Our two plants in Halol in Gujarat and Talegaon in Maharashtra have seen a cumulative investment of over $1 billion. We have put efforts in India to develop new products with a technical centre for not just the local market but also for global applications. We make sure we understand the customers and develop the right vehicles.

We want GM to be a highly respected, valued company in India and also globally with year after year of growth. We had our global chairman Tim Solso and head of international operations Stefan Jacoby, along with our CFO (Chuck Stevens), in India to demonstrate our commitment and belief in India’s future.

On charges of corporate fraud against the company and the strategy to bring back confidence to the Indian unit…

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India is a key strategic market with a great opportunity from the market perspective. There is a huge focus to improve quality across the market we operate in. Our global team visited the Indian plants to improve the quality of our vehicles and product assessment to bring some dramatic improvements.

General Motors operations have seen some quality issues and the integrity of vehicles that were the result of the decisions taken many years ago. We are looking forward to deal with the situation just like in America where we are taking it very straight forward and did the right thing.

On new initiatives…

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We have a relatively new leadership team in India with Stefan (Jacoby) in charge. We are really focused and have put five key initiatives globally and for the Indian market. The customers as the main centre of our operations are there for the entire lifetime. We understand the importance of brands that grow with the customer.

Our global brands are Chevrolet and Cadillac. In India, we are here with Chevrolet that is a great brand in terms of value and we want to introduce model after model and products in this brand. We also want to be a leader in technology and innovation that truly create value for the customer in terms of fuel efficiency or safety or connectivity and any aspect of the vehicle.
Future product lineup…

We plan to introduce 40 new products across the international market, including India. We would be brining 14 new products in the US and 27 models in the Opel brand in the European market. Also, we plan to bring 17 new and upgraded models in China. On GM India’s strategy to bring
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Chinese vehicles from partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), a step that has not fared well…

We have a significant partnership still with SAIC in China. And we assessed and in that cases we did not have the right focus in understanding the right product to the Indian market. We had some quality challenges that have been assessed. We have not closed the books. We have a wealth of products in the General Motors family and need to identify the future models. I’m not here to make any product announcement today. We are here to drive success for the entire company including India that makes us a strong organisation globally.

 
India’s contribution to overall volumes…

We see it as a significant market as the industry is going to grow. We think there is an opportunity to grow and we are here to evaluate, also from an overall share perspective as well. We don’t have any specific targets.

On transformation at GM…

We have a very strong leadership team. We have a good balance sheet. We have showed across markets that we have superior products. We have a well-defined game plan. In India, we have a dedicated strategy.