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Indian Car Craze Attracts American Automakers

March 2007
Indian Car Craze Attracts American Automakers

The big three automakers in the U.S. seem to be in a rapid downward slide; General Motors, in fact, has already yielded the first position to Toyota. Nevertheless, the fast-growing auto market in India remains a hot opportunity for GM and other companies. Chevrolet Spark, a mini-car made suitable for Indian roads, will be launched later in the year. Hoping to enlarge its less than 3 percent share of the Indian market, GM also plans to come out with a hatchback (Aveo U-VA) and an SUV (Optra SRV). The production will begin at GM's Halol plant in Gujarat. Given the company's long-term strategy in India, a new plant is being built near Pune. Chevrolet Travera is currently GM's top seller in the country, although less than 2000 units are sold every month. Capitalizing on the rising demand for affordable cars among middle class Indians, GM is also entering the competitive used car market. Apart from locally assembled vehicles, GM offers two fully imported models (Opel Vectra and Chevrolet Forester) in India. Overall, the automaker has made good progress. Its total sales in India last month grew by 46 percent over the same period in 2006.

Speaking of American cars (especially those made by GM), classics like Chevrolet Bell Air and Impala remain highly desirable among a growing coterie of Indian collectors. Diljeet Titus, a Delhi-based lawyer, even started a museum (Pro Bono Publico) to display his collection, which reportedly includes cars that have appeared in films such as Zubeida, Black and Gadar. In an earlier era, Rolls Royce and other vintage European models were the objects of affection among maharajas and the moneyed classes. That's no longer the case. Not only are American classics easier to drive, they're also cost-effective, relatively speaking, since the replacement parts for these cars are more readily available.

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