Chinese Invade India, GM-SAIC Launch Sail

Faisal Ali Khan
by Faisal Ali Khan
chinese invade india gm saic launch sail

Chinese products have dominated almost every industry – except of course the automobile industry. But this could easily change. Chinese made cars are improving at a rapid pace and could soon challenge more established car makers. The Chinese invasion will soon start in India, with General Motors launching the Sail hatchback. The Sail is the brainchild of GM’s joint venture with SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), which is by far the largest Chinese car maker, and which also happens to be GM’s joint venture partner for India.

The Chevrolet Sail is the brand’s top seller in China. In September, Chevrolet sales in China were 56,166 units, 18,786 or 33 percent of which were generated by the Sail. The Cruze brought in sales of 18,338 units.

When I saw the Sail at the Indian Auto Expo earlier this year, I was disappointed. The styling is conservative and the interiors look outdated. GM’s Indian engineers have tweaked the car thoroughly to adapt it to Indian road conditions, and a diesel powertrain (a must for India) is part of the package. The 1.3-litre Multijet (Fiat-GM co-developed) produces 78 PS and 151 lb-ft. A 1.2-litre Gasoline engine is on offer too (86 PS, 83 lb-ft).

So how does this car drive? I was pleasantly surprised by the Sail. It doesn’t drive bad at all. Performance is good for city driving and interior space is easily the best in its class. There is ample amount of front and rear room. Handling is good but the steering is very vague, lacking feedback. Ride quality is amazing and the Sail eats away bad roads. Trunk capacity is good too. The Sail is a very practical vehicle which is certain to do well in India. A sedan version of the Sail and the Enjoy (CN-100) MPV, both SAIC products, will follow.

The Sail is being assembled at a GM plant in India. GM’s India business is jointly owned by GM and SAIC through a Hong Kong registered joint venture. A few days ago, it was announced that GM had bought back most of the shares in the jointly-owned India business. GM now holds 93 percent, seven percent are held by SAIC. According to Reuters, GM’s India car sales fell 21 percent in the first six months of the financial year that began in April,while overall industry car sales slipped 0.3 percent in the same period. GM sold 111,510 cars in India in 2011, less than a third of its total installed capacity.

According to data published by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), Indians bought 2.6 million passenger vehicles in the 2011/2012 fiscal, and 800,000 commercial vehicles, for a grand total of 3.427 million motorvehicles. With 14 million motorized two and three-wheeler sold in the same period, the market already has a potential for 17 million units annually. With a population of 1.24 billion, India is seen as the “next China.”

Do you think Chinese car makers will make a formidable challenge to European and Japanese car makers in the future?

Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of, a website covering the auto industry of India.

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5 of 32 comments
  • Mr Nosy Mr Nosy on Oct 21, 2012

    By Chinese car makers,do you mean badge-engineered vehicles to compete with established European and Japanese vehicles made in China,or neighboring countries? The answer is sure,why not? If you mean making a Chinese car possessing something uniquely "Chinese",in the same way one uses terms "German engineering",or "Japanese reliability",then the answer depends on which Chinese brand can market what a Chinese car is,and then be able to deliver on it. Korean car makers have yet to stand for something more than "Like a Japanese car,but(currently) more adventurous in style and (also currently)a better value for the money". Richard Gere may never buy Chinese(Or post to this site.)but if they ever build a car that can somehow manage to distill Ming vases,gunpowder,and that long,tall,old wall of theirs...

    • See 1 previous
    • Faisal Ali Khan Faisal Ali Khan on Oct 21, 2012

      @th009 Chinese engineering but re-engineered for India with the diesel engine being India specific.

  • 2012JKU 2012JKU on Oct 21, 2012

    Looks like the poor mans version of our Chevrolet Spark.

    • Faisal Ali Khan Faisal Ali Khan on Oct 22, 2012

      And priced more expensive than the Spark. We have the Spark in India, available with petrol, LPG and diesel engine options.

  • Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
  • Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂