Gone But Not Forgotten: Chevrolet Tavera
Talk about timing. Frustrated by the Astra and Corsa’s limited success, General Motors killed off Opel and brought in Chevrolet with a lower cost approach to India. The brand launched, bizarrely, with the rebadged Subaru Forester, a stop- gap until they finished slapping bow ties onto the Isuzu Panther and introduced the Tavera in 2004. And you know what else happened in 2004? Toyota pulled the plug on the Qualis! The thousands who were buying the Qualis every month had nowhere to turn, and in effect Toyota laid out the red carpet for the Tavera.
Not that the Tavera didn’t have its strengths, top of the pile being space; vastly more space than the Qualis. You could even spec it as a 10-seater and that appealed to the taxi market. The diesel was efficient with similarly leisurely performance as the Qualis (0-100kmph in 23 seconds) but not a patch on refinement. Or quality. Or even emissions!
In 2013, the lid was blown on the scandal where it emerged that GM officials were forging emission data by sending tweaked engines for testing. 35 executives were sacked and 1.14 lakh Taveras – basically everything that was manufactured between 2005 and 2013 – was recalled.
This was of course not the only goings-on at GM India. In 2008, GM went bankrupt and SAIC bailed out the India ops by buying a 50 per cent stake. What followed was a USD 1 billion investment towards the Talegaon plant and the first wave of Chinese cars – U-VA and Aveo – that didn’t find many takers. Realising that the planned light truck project wasn’t going to take off either, SAIC packed up and GM’s stake went back up to 93 per cent in 2012. Meanwhile GM had bought a bankrupt Daewoo and relaunched the Matiz as the Spark, then the Beat, running a diesel engine made in Talegaon, and of course there was the Optra and the diesel rocket that was the Cruze. All launched with plenty of enthusiasm; all failed to sustain that enthusiasm – so much so that after not even two years of committing a further USD 1 billion investment in India (new platform, new engines, multiple body styles, even a pause on selling the old plant in Halol to SAIC), GM boss Mary Barra pulled the plug on the India ops.
And in the middle of all this, the Tavera continued to chug along. Production had resumed in 2012 after GM sourced a Rover-derived diesel that Sonalika were making for their own short-lived Qualis rival, the Rhino. The Neo 3 variant sold until 2015 when GM put back their own, formerly- naughty, 2.5-litre turbo-diesel now with a reduced compression ratio to meet BS4 emission norms. And that went on until 2017 when GM looked at their accumulated losses – estimates put it at USD 1.1 billion – and called time on India.