Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Tata Motors Ltd., India’s biggest automaker, said Managing Director Karl Slym died after falling from a hotel in Bangkok. He was 51.
Slym fell from the Shangri-La hotel, where he was staying, a company official said yesterday by phone, without elaborating. The Englishman, who joined Tata Motors in 2012 after 17 years at General Motors Co., had traveled to Bangkok for a board meeting of Tata Motors Thailand Ltd., the automaker said in a statement.
Slym headed Tata Motors’ operations, excluding the Jaguar Land Rover luxury division, amid India’s worst economic slowdown in more than a decade. He sought to reposition the failing Nano as a “second car” after buyers shunned the $2,300 compact pitched as an inexpensive alternative to motor scooters.
“Karl was beginning to make long-term changes at Tata Motors,” Vikas Sehgal, managing director for the automotive sector at Rothschild & Sons Ltd. in London, said by phone. “His loss will be felt deeply by Tata Motors.”
Slym, who joined the company from General Motors’ Chinese unit, was the second GM executive to be appointed managing director at Mumbai-based Tata Motors. The company previously hired Carl-Peter Forster in 2010 from GM in Europe. Forster quit after less than two years.
Net income climbed 71 percent to 35.4 billion rupees ($566 million) in the three months through September, beating analyst estimates, as sales at the Jaguar Land Rover unit jumped, countering a loss at the automaker’s domestic division. Sales at Tata Motors’ Indian unit declined 29 percent.
India’s automakers’ body, which forecasts the first annual decline in passenger-vehicle sales in more than a decade, said this month the industry is still going through a tough time as the economic slowdown damps demand. The nation’s passenger- vehicle sales slid 5.7 percent in the nine months ended Dec. 31, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers said Jan. 9.
“Karl was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry,” Tata Motors Chairman Cyrus P. Mistry said in the statement.
Karl J. Slym was born in Derby, central England, and graduated in production engineering from the city’s university in 1984. He began his career as a general manager at Toyota Motor Corp. before moving to GM in 1995.
He held various roles with the U.S. carmaker in locations including in Poland, Germany and Canada. Following his move to India, he featured in GM’s advertising campaign in 2008-2009.
Slym oversaw the sale of a 50 percent stake in GM India to SAIC Motor Corp. of China and announced the company’s plans to enter the light commercial vehicle market in India.
Slym, who was a soccer and cricket fan, is survived by his wife, Sally. His older brother, Kevin, died in 2008.