Tue, Jan 28, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Tata Motors executive dies in Thailand

Reuters, BANGKOK and MUMBAI, India

Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym poses at the launch of a motor car in Ahmedabad, India, on Jan. 19, 2010, when he was General Motors India president.

Photo: AFP

Karl Slym, managing director of India’s Tata Motors Ltd, died after falling from a hotel room in Bangkok in what Thai police said yesterday could be a possible suicide.

Slym, 51, had attended a board meeting of Tata’s Thailand unit in the Thai capital and was staying with his wife in a room on the 22nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel. Hotel staff found his body on Sunday on the fourth floor, which juts out above the lower floors.

“We didn’t find any sign of a struggle,” Thai police lieutenant Somyot Boonyakaew, who is heading the investigation, told reporters.

“We found a window open. The window was very small so it was not possible that he would have slipped. He would have had to climb through the window to fall out because he was a big man. From my initial investigation we believe he jumped,” Boonyakaew said.

The police found a three-page note, written in English, which they were translating into Thai. An autopsy on Slym’s body was to begin yesterday.

Tata Motors, India’s biggest automaker, said in statement on Sunday that Slym had provided leadership in a challenging market environment.

Slym, a British national, was hired in 2012 to revive Tata’s flagging sales and market share in India. Tata Motors is part of the Tata conglomerate.

“His death comes at a time when the company seems to be close to turning the corner,” said Anil Sharma, an analyst with researchers IHS Automotive. “It comes before his efforts bear fruit. We should be able to see the results in a year or two.”

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

Slym led the automaker’s operations in India and international markets including South Korea, Thailand and South Africa, but he did not look after the Jaguar and Land Rover luxury unit that Tata Motors acquired in 2008.

Thai police said they were called to the Shangri-La hotel at about 7:45am on Sunday after staff found Slym’s body. They woke up Slym’s wife, who looked shocked when she was told what had happened to her husband.

Tata Motors had lost traction in the Indian passenger vehicle market as 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 1998. Sales of the Nano, the world’s cheapest car which it unveiled in 2008, have been lackluster.

Slym was previously executive vice president of SGMW Motors, China, a General Motors joint venture, and president of General Motors India.

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