By Penny MacRae (AFP) – Feb 16, 2010
NEW DELHI — The new chief executive of India's leading vehicle maker Tata Motors appealed Tuesday for 100 days to get to grips with his job, a day after being named to drive the company into the new decade.
"I am enthused by having this opportunity to work for an Indian company with such high business ethics... and in such a fast-growing market," Carl-Peter Forster said in New Delhi, where he made his debut appearance in his new role.
The 55-year-old former head of General Motors' European operations will have overall responsibility for Tata Motors' global activities as group chief executive, a new position in the company's 65-year history.
"People normally get 100 days, plus or minus. Give me that time and we'll meet again," Forster told a news conference, adding he was excited by the chance to expand Tata's business both domestically and "out of India".
Tata Motors, which has consolidated annual revenues of 14 billion dollars, is the flagship company of the tea-to-software Tata group. Company officials said Forster's international background would help boost the family-led conglomerate's global reach.
Ratan Tata, chairman of the motor company's parent, Tata Group, has long professed a desire to spread the group's wings "far beyond India".
Tata Motors' main products are commercial vehicles such as trucks and budget-level cars such as the new Nano hatchback, dubbed the world's cheapest car.
And while it owns premium British car marques Jaguar and Land Rover, Tata Motors is still relatively unknown internationally.
Ratan Tata said Forster's appointment would "greatly facilitate" the company's ambition of "being a truly international company".
Forster, who has 24 years of experience in the auto business with GM and BMW, among others, will be based at the company's Mumbai headquarters.
"He has experience in overseas markets, especially in Europe, where Tata is seeking to build up its products. Tata will be able to go global more aggressively with him," said Vaishali Jajoo, analyst at Mumbai's Angel Broking.
Forster takes over after Tata Motors said late last month that its Indian operations had swung to profit in the fiscal third quarter to December as government stimulus measures and cheap loans spurred a revival in demand.
But the figures did not include numbers for Jaguar Land Rover, which Tata Motors bought for 2.3 billion dollars in 2008. The British firm's performance pushed its parent to an annual loss last year as the market for luxury vehicles slid.
Forster's appointment comes at a tense time in relations between Jaguar Land Rover management and unions. Three weeks ago its chief executive David Smith resigned after talks on workers' pay collapsed.
"They needed somebody with international repute to replace Smith and he certainly has that," said Paul Newton, car analyst at London-based Global Insight.
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