Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym, who had an easy self deprecatory style, joined the company in 2012 as part of a major management overhaul as sales of its passenger cars dipped and its leadership in the commercial vehicles was being challenged.
The 51-year-old was leading the company at a time when the Indian auto industry is struggling against prolonged slowdown, with Tata Motors sales recording a steep fall.
In December, domestic car sales declined 4.52 per cent year-on-year and sales at Tata Motors fell about 42 per cent.
Slym had just begun to put some of the elements of the turnaround into place, embracing a technological leap that was not associated with the company till recently. For instance, speaking at a media event he had said that he envisaged satellite technology to guide even breakdown of cars, laying stress on the movement towards smart cars.
Some of those are to be showcased at the first Prima Truck Racing Championship, announced by Tata Motors, to be held at the Greater Noida Formula One track. Slym had tweeted about it where he had described himself as a “Britisher who just can’t stay away from India”.
He had unveiled a new identity for Nano as a smart city car instead of the initial promise as the world’s cheapest passenger vehicle when it was launched. Last week, he had also announced a voluntary retirement scheme to rationalise costs and hoped to turn around the company by FY17 with a new range of vehicles to replace its current fleet.
Before joining Tata Motors, Slym was the executive vice president, SGMW Motors, China (a General Motors Joint Venture). An alumnus of Stanford University and a Sloan Fellow, his earlier India stint was with GM in different capacities including as board member from 2007-11.
Condoling Slym’s death, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers president Vikram Kirloskar said, “We have lost a well-wisher in Karl at a time when the company as well as the industry most needed his global expertise, leadership and guidance.”