Tata Motors MD Karl Slym dies after falling from hotel room in Bangkok

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 27 2014, 16:08pm hrs
Karl SlymKarl Slym, Tata Motors Managing Director, was highly-respected within the auto industry circles and was known for his wit and cheerful demeanour.
Karl Slym, the 51-year-old managing director of Indias largest automaker Tata Motors, died in Bangkok on Sunday in a freak accident at his hotel, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi.

Slym, who had been leading a business restructuring and modernisation exercise at Tata Motors, was in Bangkok to attend a board meeting of the companys Thai subsidiary.

Reacting to Karl Slyms sudden death, Cyrus Mistry, Tata Motors chairman, said, I am deeply saddened to inform you about the untimely and tragic demise of our companys managing director, Karl Slym. Karl was visiting Bangkok for a meeting of the board of directors of Tata Motors Thailand, and passed away earlier today.

He added, Karl Slym 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 Karls wife and family.

A source said that Karl Slym had fallen from a higher floor at his hotel in the Thai capital, though not many details are available yet. His wife, Sally, had accompanied Slym for his business trip to Thailand.

A Briton and Indophile, Karl Slym previously worked with Toyota in the UK and General Motors for 17 years in Canada, Poland, India and China. He served as the chief of GMs India unit between 2007 and 2011, before moving to China for about a year as the executive vice-president of a GM joint venture company. However, at the request of ex-Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, Slym returned to India to head Tata Motors domestic and global businesses (except Jaguar Land Rover). (Slym) was providing leadership to the company through a challenging market environment, a Tata Motors statement said.

A Stanford alumnus and a Sloan fellow, Slym was highly respected within auto industry circles and was known for his wit and cheerful demeanour.

In a statement, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers condoled the passing away from Slym, who had earlier also served as the chairman of the SIAM passenger car council and had also been an elected member of the SIAM executive committee since 2007.

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, said Vikram Kirloskar, president, SIAM.

Tata Motors executive Karl Slym dies in fall from hotel

Reuters: Karl Slym, managing director of Tata Motors Ltd, died on Sunday after falling from a high floor of a hotel in Bangkok, the company said.

Slym, 51, had attended a board meeting of Tata's Thailand unit in the Thai capital, a company spokeswoman said, giving no further details. A post-mortem report is due on Monday, she said.

A native of Britain, Slym was hired in 2012 to revive flagging sales and market share in the domestic business of India's biggest automaker, which is part of the Tata conglomerate.

"His death comes at a time when the company seems to be close to turning the corner, with new designs and a new petrol engine family, which hasn't been Tata's strong point," said Anil Sharma, an analyst with IHS Automotive.

Tata Motors recently introduced a new petrol engine for its passenger vehicles and has been planning to launch a new hatchback and compact sedan this year, its first new branded passenger vehicles since 2010.

"It (his death) comes before his efforts bear fruit. We should be able to see the results of his work in a year or two," Sharma said.

Slym led the automaker's operations in India and international markets including South Korea, Thailand and South Africa, excluding the Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) luxury unit that it acquired in 2008.

Slym "was providing leadership to the company through a challenging market environment", the company said in a statement on Sunday.

Tata Motors had lost traction in its passenger vehicle market as its domestic and foreign rivals rolled out new models while it mostly tweaked existing models and offered heavy price discounts.

The firm has not had a hit car at home since its Indica launch in 1998. Sales of the Nano, the world's cheapest car which it unveiled in 2008, have been lacklustre.

Before joining Tata Motors, Slym was executive vice president of SGMW Motors, China, a General Motors joint venture. Before that he had headed General Motors in India.