Come May 2017, the ailing General Motors (GM) in India had made a shocking announcement of exiting the domestic market after operating for close to two decades, shutting down one of its two plants, terminating dealer agreements and even laying off manpower, while relocating some of its permanent employees.
While it has been relying solely on exports from its plant in Talegaon, in Pune, since January 2018, the company has been increasingly tapping the General Motors Technical Centre India (TCI), its global engineering and research centre located in Bangalore.
Brian McMurray, vice-president, Engineering and Operations, General Motors India "Eighty-five percent of GM's total vehicle variants are being worked upon here, and that is a very significant portion being handled by TCI."
With new megatrends of vehicle electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving shaping up the world over, and as GM strives to reinvent itself for sustainable growth, the technical centre has varying degrees of contribution in 83 to 85 percent of GM's entire product portfolio, including variants.
GM, with its presence in almost all the markets around the world, boasts a rather substantial product line-up of over 270 models including their variants, and with a 2,500-engineer-strong team, “TCI is not an extension but an integral part of GM’s core engineering functions back home in North America, as well as in North Korea,” says Brian McMurray, vice-president, Engineering and Operations, General Motors India.
“We are an extremely valuable part of the organisation, and are heavily involved in the vehicle analysis, dynamics and kinematics aspects, even for newer technologies like electrification,” he adds.
With a powertrain, chassis, electrical and interior department, work is being carried out in terms of advanced vehicle development, performance integration, safety analysis, knowledge-based engineering, human-machine interface, and then some. Quite interestingly, even at our last visit to the centre in 2012, instrument clusters, body control modules and HVAC software on GM’s premium and niche brands such as the Corvette and the Cadillac, were all being developed at TCI.
“Somewhere between 83 to 85 percent of the total vehicle variants are being worked upon here, and that is a very significant portion being handled by TCI,” says McMurray.
“We are also taking care of the digital-virtual sculpting, which includes the transformation of the surface from clay into metal and generation of that into the actual car parts on the production line. Critical component analysis, model building as well as infotainment systems – which include current as well as next-gen technologies being demanded by our customers – are also the areas TCI is responsible for,” adds McMurray.
While specific elements of vehicle electrification and autonomous driving technologies also being developed inside its campus, “We are innovating continuously and are leveraging the talented Indian engineers, who offer a multi-faceted approach, with even the mechanical engineers being competent enough to write software code. On a macro perspective, we are adopting a people-first philosophy,” concludes McMurray.
With a bustling technical centre, it's amply clear that although the company isn't selling its cars in India at the moment, it, however, hasn’t turned its back completely either. The ‘bow-tie’ then could very well be seen making a re-entry into the Indian market when the environment is conducive again and, maybe, in a different avatar altogether. It’s just a matter of time. Stay tuned.
(This article was first featured in the 1 August 2018 issue of Autocar Professional)