Exclusive: GM set to storm India as Korea costs climb

Sun May 3, 2015 6:04pm EDT
 
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By Norihiko Shirouzu and Aditi Shah

BEIJING/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - General Motors (GM.N: Quote) aims to grab at least 5 percent market share in India within the next decade, as it sees that market overtaking Japan as the world's third biggest with projected annual sales of 8 million vehicles by 2025.

The Detroit carmaker, which is losing money in India even after 18 years there, will unleash a product blitz aimed at reviving sagging sales, and will make India a new global manufacturing and export hub, taking some of the strain off South Korea, where labor costs have ballooned in recent years.

As part of a strategic plan due to be announced later this year, GM will launch newly designed subcompact cars into India, where buyers are shifting from no-frills econo-cars to models offering more room and functionality.

"India may be the last big white sheet of paper in the automotive industry," Stefan Jacoby, GM's chief of international operations, told Reuters in a recent interview.

India's autos market has been steady for the past few years, with annual sales of just above 3 million vehicles, but Jacoby sees that changing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office last year, vowing to reboot Asia's third-largest economy.

"India has gained back confidence," especially after Modi's election, said the 57-year-old, who joined GM from Volvo Cars in 2013. "We're pretty optimistic. We see growth potential in India, and believe there's a good opportunity for the Chevrolet brand to take share in this market. There's more prosperity and buying power. Vehicles selling for $5,000-$8,000 will more and more disappear in India."

The gradual pivot to India mirrors moves by Ford Motor (F.N: Quote) and Nissan Motor (7201.T: Quote) to modify their strategies to give them the ability to ramp up exports from India.

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Employees work on a Chevrolet Beat car on an assembly line at the General Motors plant in Talegaon, about 118 km (73 miles) from Mumbai September 3, 2012. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui