Tata Motors’ Managing Director Karl Slym, 51, died today in a freak accident in Bangkok where he had gone to attend a Tata Motors Thailand Ltd board meeting. Company sources say that Slym fell fatally from a higher floor of a hotel in Bangkok.
Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry expressed his shock and condolences at Slym’s untimely death and said "Karl joined us in October 2012, and was a valued colleague who was providing strong leadership at a challenging time for the Indian auto industry. In this hour of grief, our thoughts are with Karl’s wife and family"
Before joining the company, Slym was with General Motors for two decades where he held various posts all over the world, which included a four year tenure from 2007-2011 as the president and managing director of GM India. During his stint in India, Slym became the face of GM India and endeared himself to his colleagues with his affable and approachable personality. Slym can be credited for taking GM India’s market share to an all time high and was solely responsible for pushing through a US$ 54 million investment to bring the 3-cylinder diesel engine for the Beat in India. It was also during this tenure that Karl and his wife Sally got smitten by India and didn’t want to leave.
Slym who described himself as a "Britisher who can’t stay away from India" on his Twitter handle was happy to quit his next post as Executive Vice-president, SGMW Motors, a General Motors Joint Venture in China and grab the offer to head Tata Motors as the company’s managing director.
Leading Tata Motors through its toughest period and in a turbulent automobile industry was the toughest challenge in Slym’s career. Internally too, Slym had to navigate the bureaucratic Tata Motors culture and a management with multiple layers which was often at odds with his own easy going and simplified working style. Sylm was under tremendous pressure to prop up Tata Motors, which has seen its market share under his leadership fall to an all-time low. Slym launched several new initiatives to turn around the company. His ‘Horizonnext’ strategy included multiple upgrades or facelifts of the existing model range and changes in the management structure. His task was sadly cut short but promising new launches like the Nano Twist and the ‘Falcon’ hatchback and saloon will be remembered as a part of his legacy.
Slym will also be remembered as a people’s person who was as comfortable dancing at a dealer’s wedding reception, as in a boardroom. He had a great sense of humour and like any true Indian, loved cricket and Bollywood in equal measure. Karl is survived by his wife Sally, who was always by his side, even at the time of his tragic demise.
First Published: Jan 28, 2014 13:11 IST