General Motors India recently announced its decision to exit the Indian market with the Chevrolet brand. The automaker will no longer be selling its cars in India, even though it will continue to produce and export vehicles from its Talegaon manufacturing facility in Maharashtra. Sales for GM cars in the country will officially stop on 31st December 2017, but the company has said that it honour all warranties and also provide after sales and service support to customers. In its two decade run, GM India had its fair share of highs and lows, but its decision to pull the plug on its Indian retail operations was highly unprecedented.
As we bid farewell to the American automaker, let's take a look at the popular cars from General Motors that managed to please owners, if not sell in great numbers.
Opel Astra (1996-2006)
General Motors arrived in India with the German brand 'Opel' and the Astra was one of the first models to go on sale from the manufacturer. It was sold in the C-segment sedan space competing with the Honda City, Mitsubishi Lancer and the likes, and was really one of the first models to bring that 'German quality' in the affordable car space. The Opel Astra boasted of a feature rich cabin, exception build quality and was fun to drive too with petrol and diesel options. The top-of-the-line Astra Club even offered a sunroof, pure novelty at the time. The thud from the door closing was as distinctive as it gets.
However, the superior build also meant that the Opel Astra faced lots of ownership issues. Spares were expensive and hard to source, which meant repair times stretched up to weeks. With more Japanese carmakers gaining ground in the C-segment segment, the Opel Astra eventually lost out and was pulled off shelves when the Opel brand exited India.
Opel Corsa (2000-2006)
Another gem from Opel's stable, the Corsa arrived in India in 2000 and competed against the Ford Ikon in the segment. It was more affordable than the Astra and had a decent set of features as well including some fantastic bits like crash sensors, power windows and a pollen filter, all of which were considered luxurious at the time. The sedan boast of a superior build quality and was powered by the 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre petrol engines.
GM also introduced the Corsa Sail and Corsa Swing versions in 2003, which were essentially the hatchback and estate versions of the sedan. However, the Opel brand could never really pick up pace in India and the Corsa family bid adieu to the Indian market in 2006.
Chevrolet Optra (2003-2012)
Trying its luck for the second time in India, General Motors re-entered in the Indian market with the Chevrolet brand. The iconic American brand started sales in India with the Optra. It was based on the Daewoo Lacetti and already on sale in a number of markets. The Optra was quite premium for its time boasting of a good build quality, decent feature list and a powerful 1.8-litre petrol engine.
While the model wasn't a popular seller, it remained a viable alternative to the Skoda Octavia and Hyundai Elantra in the last decade. In 2007, GM added some freshness to the sedan with the Optra Magum that used a powerful 2-litre diesel engine with 120 bhp of power and had packed in quite a host of features. However, the Optra could never really turn out to be a hot seller with a price tag between ₹ 10-12 lakh and was eventually discontinued in 2012.
Chevrolet SR-V (2006-2010)
Most of you may not remember the SR-V that is because GM never really sold this one in large numbers. But that had little to do with the automaker and more with a yet-to-mature market. The SR-V can be attributed as the first premium hatch and was launched in 2006. Over 4-metres in length, the SR-V was essentially a hatchback version of the Optra. But a price tag of ₹ 7 lakh meant people opted to buy the more premium looking sedans instead for a similar asking price.
The Chevrolet SR-V was clearly a good product and quite fun to drive as well. The 1.6-litre petrol engine was extremely responsive churning out up to 103 bhp of power. However, diminutive sales meant the GM had to pull the plug on this enthusiast's car in 2010.
Chevrolet Tavera (2004-2017)
One of General Motors India's success stories, the Chevrolet Tavera arrived in 2004 and was a workhorse people's carrier for the longest time. The model was spacious, efficient, reasonably priced and easy to live with. The fleet segment took fancy of the Tavera and that meant consistent volumes for the General Motors India.
Then the Chevrolet Tavera emissions scandal happened in 2013 and that really set the ball rolling for GM's downfall in India. The MPV not only lost volumes but tarnished the company's image. Despite that, the Tavera's sales were still in the vicinity of 1000 units per month, but dropped to an average of 500 units in the past year. GM India will finally pull the plug on the Tavera's sales by the end of this year.
Chevrolet Beat (2010-2017)
The second installment of the Transformers franchise hit theatres in 2009 and we were in awe of the little green Autobot. The funky looking concept was the previous generation Chevrolet Spark globally, which arrived in India in 2010 as the all-new Beat. Retaining most of the elements from the concept, the Beat was edgy, young and targeted for a young customer base. The car was launched with a 1.2-litre petrol engine along with the compact dimensions made it just the right city car. For those who up-sized its tyres, the hatchback looked closer to the concept.
In 2011, GM India also introduced the Beat diesel, one of the smallest diesel cars of its time and was also the most fuel efficient car returning an ARAI certified 24 kmpl from its 1-litre oil burner. While it aged slower than competition, the lack of features did little for the peppy car. The Beat was at the end of its life cycle this year with the new generation model set to take over. However, GM announced its plans to stop retail operations first. You can still get the Beat until December 2017.
Chevrolet Cruze (2009-2017)
The Chevrolet Cruze was called the 'Diesel Rocket' and it surely accelerated like one attracting a lot enthusiasts. Launched in 2009 when the diesel boom was yet to happen, the Cruze competed against the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and the likes in the segment. The 2-litre motor packed in a little over 160 bhp and 360 Nm of torque, and would hit the 100 kmph mark in around 8 seconds.
In recent years though, the D-segment sedan saw a cumulative drop in sales with the popularity of SUVs and that affected the Cruze's numbers as well. However, the lack of comprehensive upgrades further dropped the sedan's prospects. The Cruze is still available with dealers and for those wanting one can pick one up by the end of this year.