New Delhi: As a confident General Motors Co. (GM) prepares to launch more small cars in India, it is also looking at making use of its design centre in Bangalore to design cars from scratch for the local market.
“This design team is capable of developing a full-fledged vehicle from scratch,” said Edward Welburn, vice-president of global design at GM, who is in charge of global design operations for the world’s second largest car maker. He was speaking at the launch of the Beat, a new small car from GM. “We may be doing that now, but you don’t know that,” he added.
This comes after Karl Slym, chief executive of GM’s India subsidiary, said in October that the company hopes to have the capability by 2012 to design cars in India.
In August, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd had unveiled plans to design a car in India from concept to execution. The firm plans to showcase a concept version of the R3 designed-in-India multi-utility vehicle at the Delhi Auto Expo on Tuesday.
Employing around 1,600 workers, the General Motors Technical Centre in Bangalore has teams that work on designing, engineering and research and development.
Local touches: GM India CEO Karl Slym (centre); Ankush Arora (left, back), vice-president, marketing and sales; and Edward T. Welburn, vice-president, global design, at the launch of the Beat in New Delhi. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Still, analysts are wary of other car makers designing for the Indian market in the near future. Maruti has the scale to design cars exclusively for India, while GM invested in a design centre in 2003 that was originally intended to take care of global design work.
“As the market scales, it is still going to take time for other companies to make investments to start designing cars in India,” said Rakesh Batra, national leader, automotive sector, at consultancy Ernst and Young.
GM has already started making modifications to its cars launched for the Indian market at its Bangalore centre.
In the Beat, for instance, the rear seat was modified by engineers in India to make it more comfortable for Indian riders. “Here, it’s a family car. In other centres around the world, it is a lifestyle vehicle or a niche vehicle for customers. So here we need to make the rear seat the best it could really be,” said Welburn.
In the next few years Welburn also expects to have the India engineering centre competing for global design jobs. GM often asks its various design centres globally to compete for work. For the Beat, for instance, GM held a competition between its design centres in South Korea and California in the US.