Editorial: Slym's legacy

Jan 28 2014, 05:41 IST
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SummaryJLR ramped up well, India still work-in-progress

The turnaround at Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) happened in late 2009 with the business reporting a £55 million PAT for the

December 2009 quarter, nearly three times analysts’ estimates. That was a good three years before Karl Slym, who passed away on Sunday, took over as CEO of Tata Motors. But while JLR might have staged a recovery, Slym nevertheless played a big role in growing the business; thanks to his perseverance, Tata Motors’ revenues this year should cross the R2.3 lakh crore mark with the ebitda coming in at a more than handsome R35,000 crore. Under his watch, volumes at JLR were heading to the 4.2 lakh mark by March, 2014, having crossed the 3.6 lakh mark in FY13 and further to over 6 lakh units by FY17. Indeed, Slym was driving the business into an altogether new league having geared up to ramp up capacity to around eight lakh units by FY17—in effect doubling capacity in four years—with plants in Brazil and China a new engine facility in the UK.

While the JLR stable has rolled out several new models and variants since the Tatas took over—the Range Rover Evoque was the first big launch—there was no let up in the momentum during Slym’s tenure. Between variants and new models, the tally is expected to hit 40 in a five-year period that started in FY11. The former CEO, however, had little luck with the Indian operations; with the domestic economy in a slump, commercial vehicles (CV) sales have been under severe pressure for more than a year now with the firm’s market share falling to less than 50%, possibly for the first time in its history. CV volumes crashed 37% year-on-year in the April-December 2013 period, with even the formidable Ace—a winner in the LCV space—losing out. Slym had even less luck with passenger cars with the firm’s market share in this space down to 8.5% between April-December 2013 from 13% in the corresponding period of 2012. The Nano in particular has seen a sharp dip in volumes to barely 550 units a month and the CEO was trying to turn it into a more premium product. It’s possible he might have succeeded; in the near-term though, he would have presided over a very poor set of numbers from the home market which will contribute less than a tenth to the ebitda this year, reporting a loss

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