Tata Motors on Bolt vs. Bolt

Like a bolt from the blue?

Like a bolt from the blue?

When TransportEvolved pointed out that Tata Motors has a five-door hatchback called “Bolt” and suggested that this might be a problem for Chevrolet’s planned Bolt EV, we thought we would reach out to the Indian automaker for comment on the matter. Today, a Tata Motors spokesman made the following statement to DailyKanban:

“Bolt is currently a brand name registered by Tata Motors for the Indian market and we are in the process of registering it for some of our key international markets as relevant. However, we do not presently anticipate any concerns about the GM vehicle as both of these products are focused on very different markets”.

GM has assiduously avoided saying what markets outside the United States it might sell the Bolt in, and has even said it may reconsider the name Bolt altogether. Losing out on the Bolt name in India may not be a deciding factor, but, depending on what other markets Tata registers the Bolt name in, this could potentially become more of an issue. Tata may not “presently anticipate any concerns” with the name-sharing, but if GM has global ambitions for Bolt it may need to reach into its bag of brands to avoid overlap with Tata’s Bolt.

GM Korea: The Twilight Empire

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away ~Shelley, “Ozymandias”

Ed note: Jordan Terry of Stone Street Advisors recently asked me on Twitter what I thought of the “bad” situation at GM Korea, noting that it seemed “underreported.” Having written about the subject in the past at TTAC, that was hardly a surprise: not much hard reporting comes out of GM’s “International Operations” black box. That said, there is a broader context here that is underreported, and which I will try to lay out here…

General Motors Korea, formerly GM-Daewoo, has been a key design, engineering and export hub for GM’s global empire since the early 2000s. Specializing in smaller cars, developed and produced at lower price points than GM’s European Opel division, GM Korea was the main conduit for many of GM’s developing-market efforts, as well as the “home room” for many global products. For the perennially small-car- and cost-challenged GM, Korea was the key to offering affordable small cars for export to developed markets like the US and Europe in complete form, as well as in the form of CKD kits for developing market operations like GM Uzbekistan and GM Egypt.

But GM Korea’s long-term problems with union unrest, currency volatility and domestic market sales declines are catching up to it, creating a financial crisis just as it becomes increasingly expendable to the GM Mothership. GM’s deep alliance with China’s SAIC Motors has made GM Korea all but irrelevant to its strategy, and as The General plots its increasingly China-centric future it’s clear that Korea is losing out. With the loss of key export markets and future development work, GM’s once-crucial Korean empire is fading into obscurity and financial woes.

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US Market Peak Heralds A New, Nervous Normal

Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

After a five years of strong recovery in the US auto market, the jitters are coming back. Even with September sales posting nine percent growth year-over-year, the market’s nervousness with automaker equities is unmistakable. Ford’s stock has taken the most dramatic beating in recent days, but shares of all the big NYSE-listed US-market players are showing increased volatility and steady-to-sharp downward pressure. Even Nissan’s 19% sales boost in September, one of the month’s strongest performances, has been rewarded with a sell-off.

So what gives?

Though every automaker has its own story, the general nervousness around autos is largely explained by the fact that the US auto market has reached its pre-recession volume, and there’s little reason to think it has much further to go. Seasonally-adjusted sales have exceeded 16 million units for the last six months, even reaching as high as 17.5 million units in August, and a quick look at the market’s historical performance shows that growth above these levels doesn’t tend to last long.
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