DETROIT -- A year ago, Mary Barra traveled to New Delhi to tell the world that General Motors would spend $1 billion to launch a slew of new vehicles in India and establish the country as an export hub for emerging markets.
Less than 12 months later that plan was put on hold, GM officials in India disclosed last week. India's crackdown on diesels and a shift in market preferences away from big people movers prodded GM executives to pause and rethink their strategy.
Seems logical: Conditions changed and GM shifted course. But for GM, swift decisions and pulling back from a potential growth market haven't always come so naturally.
"In the past," one GM executive said of the India move, "because of the potential of that market, we'd have kept throwing billions at it until we got it right."
Companies rarely earn respect for what they don't do. But for GM, the reassessment in India is the latest milepost along a path to becoming a more disciplined company. It joins a growing list of proof points -- retreating from manufacturing in money-losing Indonesia, yanking Chevy from Europe, largely winding down Russian operations -- that show Barra & Co. are at least applying a consistent strategic focus, swiftly switching gears when outside forces dictate.
"GM has taken a more vigilant stance in determining where it is and isn't profitable, and is acting on that -- a departure from the ways of GM past," Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a research note last year.
For GM watchers, there seem to be two overarching concerns about the company. One is long term: whether it can adapt and lead as autonomous driving and new personal-mobility services threaten the future of the car-ownership model. It'll take years before we have an answer to that.
But the other concern is rooted in GM's past: whether the company might return to its fat and sassy ways. Will it start making too many vehicles and overload dealership lots? Will it chase market share or segments, overextend itself into too many regions with too many brands? Most importantly, will it be caught unprepared again when the inevitable market downturn hits?
Barra and her team are keenly aware of those lingering questions. It's why they rarely miss a chance to remind analysts of their more disciplined approach, including Barra's final remarks on a conference call last month to discuss GM's blowout second-quarter earnings: "We'll continue to execute our plan with discipline to keep driving profitable growth ... generating strong returns on invested capital."
Net income more than doubled, to $2.87 billion.
Signs of that approach are showing up on the product-development and sales fronts, too.
Take Cadillac. Brand chief Johan de Nysschen in early 2015 started the clock on a $12 billion investment plan that was to include eight new models by 2020.
But even on that rebuilding project -- one deemed of paramount importance inside GM because of luxury's potential to pad the bottom line -- GM is showing restraint.
At least two projects that de Nysschen has talked about are on hold indefinitely: an entry-level car to take on the Audi A3 and Mercedes CLA; and a big, range-topping, Mercedes S class-fighting sedan, sources have said.
Although the projects were not formally approved, they've been trimmed from the wish list for now, again a response to market conditions, namely slumping sedan demand.
GM's avowed discipline in the U.S. -- its focus on retail sales over fleet, tamer incentives and leaner inventories -- has tested executives' resolve in recent months amid a slide in overall market share. In light of the second-quarter profit numbers, GM execs felt vindicated.
"I could quite easily inflate my financial results if I decided to wholesale another 10,000 [Chevy] Sonics," GM North America President Alan Batey told reporters last week. But, he said, "we're going to have discipline."