GM could restart Sail and Tavera production in early July


Recently, General Motors India stopped producing three cars: the Tavera BS-III, the Sail hatchback and sedan models. While the Tavera BS-III was pulled off the production line after the MUV failed a emission check by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), "quality issues" with the 1.3 liter-four cylinder turbo diesel engine has resulted in GM India stopping production of the Sail hatchback and sedan. General Motors, has since instructed its dealers to stop selling the BS-III variant of the Tavera and the Sail twins. 

Production of the Tavera and Sail twins could restart from the first week of July, according to a report on AutoCarProThe production of the said cars crunched to a halt on the back of ARAI's yearly Confirmation of Performance (COP) inspection. This inspection is said to have found that the Tavera MUV, in BS-III guise, isn't meeting the mandated emission standards while the Sail UV-A hatchback and the Sail sedan were suffering from "quality issues". 

However, the exact nature of the Sail twins's "quality issues" remain unknown. Rumours suggest that the issue could have something to do with the ignition system of the cars's diesel engines. Notably, the 1.3 liter turbo diesel engine was developed jointly by General Motors and Fiat, when the two car makers were in process of executing a merger. The fallout of this merger led to Fiat allowing General Motors to use the 1.3 JTD (uniJet turbo diesel) engine, and many other diesel engines developed on the JTD platform, on the latter's car models, as a part of the settlement pact.

This engine has been re-engineered by General Motors to suit various applications. The car maker uses a downsized, 936cc-3 cylinder version of this engine on the Beat Diesel. In India, the 1.3 liter version of this common rail-turbo diesel engine is used on the Sail U-VA, the Sail sedan and the Enjoy MPV. As of now, the production and sales stop has hit only the Sail twins, with the Enjoy MPV remaining unaffected. 

The 1.3 Liter turbo diesel engine, known as the Fiat Multijet unit, is used by a wide range of cars, spanning across manufacturers. The engine is well known for being highly reliable, fuel efficient and a punchy performer. Some of India's best selling cars such as the Maruti Suzuki Swift, Dzire and Ertiga use this very engine. Tata Motors, Fiat and Rio are the other car makers using the 1.3 liter MultiJet turbo diesel engine in various states of tune. Fiat and Suzuki Powertrain Limited (under license from Fiat) manufacture this engine in India. 

It remains unclear as to whether GM India will recall the Sail's twin models, which have been already sold, in order to address the said mechanical issues. As the Sail hatchback and sedan are brand new models, aimed at boosting volumes for the American car maker, the stop in production represents bad news for both the brand as well as the cars. However, the petrol engined models of the Sail twins and the Tavera BS4 Diesel MUV remain unaffected, with production and retail sales continuing uninterrupted. 

The Tavera BS-III's engines are supplied by a vendor called AVTEC Limited. AVTEC is a company owned by the CK Birla group. This company, which makes engines, transmissions and other auto components, builds the 2.5 liter BS-III turbo diesel engine of the Tavera at its Pithampur factory in Madhya Pradesh. The BS-III turbo diesel engine is quite important for the Tavera, as the MUV equipped with this engine brings in the lion's share of volumes (70-80%) of total production. The Tavera's main buyers are cab operators, and the MUV is a re-badged Isuzu Panther. 

For its part, AVTEC claims that the 2.5 liter turbo diesel engine isn't responsible for failing emission norms. The vendor goes on to add that other aggregates associated with the engine, such as the catalytic converter (a crucial emission cutting measure located in the exhaust system of vehicles) could be the causes of the failed emission performance. The BS4 version engine of the Tavera, which is a 2 liter unit capable of outputting 105 Bhp-260 Nm, is built by International Tractors Limited. 

International Tractors Limited (ITL) is a part of the Hoshiarpur, Punjab based ICML Sonalika group, engaged in the production of tractors, farm equipment and the Rhino MUV. As an interim measure, GM India is said to have commissioned ITL to build more BS4 turbo diesel engines in order to meet demand for the Tavera. With that, it could be a while before production of the BS-III variant of the Tavera is restarted.

Here's a statement from Mr P.Balendran, Vice-President at General Motors India, 

We are working hard to resolve these issues as quickly as possible and will come back to you in the coming days with more details as we move towards a solution for both vehicles. As part of General Motors’ stringent manufacturing and quality control processes, we have identified a potential emissions performance issue with the Chevrolet Tavera BS-III and a quality issue with the Chevrolet Sail HB and NB Diesel variants. Neither issue is safety-related. Since GM is committed to product excellence, we have temporarily suspended production of these vehicles. The Tavera BS-IV and Sail HB and NB Petrol models are unaffected and production of these vehicles is continuing. 

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