A strong foothold in India is key to GM’s growth globally, according to General Motors Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, here for the launch of the GM Daewoo-designed Chevrolet Spark.

The Spark is Chevrolet’s smallest and most mainstream model in India and one that GM hopes will increase its market share to 10% by 2010 from the current 3%.

“Getting market share up in India is our first priority”, Wagoner said.

General Motors’ desire to grow in India takes on more urgency considering the problems the giant automaker has been facing at home in the US. This is the main reason why the Spark is considered a very important product for the Indian operation.

“It is very critical for us to grow in India and the Spark is a big part of our plans”, Wagoner said.

Non-US sales have accounted for more than half of GM’s group sales for the last two years.

“Most of the current growth is outside US and new plants in India, China and Russia are steps in this direction,” Wagoner said.

The Spark’s importance for GM India is reflected in its aggressive pricing from INR 309,000 ($US7,330) the most competitive ever for a GM product in India.

This is not bottom of the pile but, for once, GM is keen to compete on price with its competition, including spare parts pricing – the Indian unit’s Achilles heel in the past.

However, not all is going strong. The Spark has been launched a year before preparations for it are complete. GM’s new plant here – intended for the Spark – is far from finished and will not come on stream before mid-2008.

In the meantime, the Spark will be manufactured at GM’s existing Halol facility which has a monthly capacity of 7,000 units. With other GM models already accounting for 4,500 units, this leaves only 2,500 units for the Spark.

That’s not something that will worry the competition in a segment where the best seller sold more than 200,000 units last year.

Deepesh Rathore