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Forster resurfaces as Tata Motors global CEO

Main man: After leading GM in Europe for almost a decade, Carl-Peter Forster will now turn his attention to Jaguar Land Rover.

Former GM Europe chief to restructure Jaguar Land Rover as Tata's new global CEO

19 Feb 2010

THREE months after stepping down as General Motors Europe president, Carl-Peter Forster has resurfaced as group chief executive of Tata Motors.

The position puts Mr Forster in charge of the Indian auto giant’s global operations, including Jaguar and Land Rover.

As GoAuto has reported, Mr Forster resigned from GM last November after the deal to sell Opel and Vauxhall to a consortium led by cars parts giant Magna International fell through.

Mr Forster was in favour of the Magna deal and criticised GM for reversing its decision to sell its European operations – now under the control of GM’s former international operations president Nick Reilly.

In a statement released this week, Tata chairman Ratan Tata said: “Tata Motors expects that Mr Forster’s induction will greatly facilitate its ambition towards being a truly international company.”

Speculation has been mounting that Mr Forster would become part of the Tata stable since Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announced the shock departure of chief executive David Smith last month.

However, Mr Forster will oversee the entire group while in a separate announcement also this week, Mr Smith's successor has been named as former Land Rover vice-president (when under BMW control) Ralph Speth.

Mr Forster, 55, succeeds Ravi Kant – now a non-executive vice-chairman with Tata Motors – and will be charged with restructuring the JLR business, which Tata bought from the Ford Motor Co in 2008 for $US2.3 billion ($A2.6b).

 center image Left: Land Rover Discovery.

Since then, JLR has cut back on production as sales plummeted during the global financial crisis – although the latest figures indicate that the two British brands have turned the corner.

As it announced Mr Forster’s appointment this week, Tata Motors also said its global sales increased 93 per cent last month over January 2009, with JLR sales up 195 per cent to 16,269 units.

Of these, Jaguar was up 122 per cent for a 2974-unit total, and Land Rover climbed 219 per cent to 13,295.

However, cumulative JLR sales for the nine months (April 2009 to January 2010) of Tata’s current financial year remain in negative territory.

Overall, JLR sales are down 20 per cent for the period at 153,247, with Jaguar down 30 per cent (with 39,484 sales) and Land Rover down 16 per cent (at 113,763).

Across the entire Tata Motors group, which also includes the Tata, Tata Daewoo and Hispano Carrocera brands, the company amassed 85,714 passenger and commercial vehicle sales last month.

Commercial vehicle sales were up 76 per cent, while passenger vehicle sales rose 44 per cent.

Cumulative sales for the past nine months for the entire group are at 681,480 units, with commercial vehicles up 32 per cent for the period and passenger vehicles up 22 per cent.

Mr Forster brings to Tata 24 years of international experience in the car industry. As well as being in charge of Opel and Vauxhall, he was also responsible for Saab and the European activities of Chevrolet.

Prior to joining GM in 2001, Mr Forster spent 13 years with BMW in a variety of roles, including managing director of BMW South Africa. He was also on the managing board of BMW responsible for manufacturing.

Dr Speth, 54, has more than 22 years’ experience in the industry, most of which was at BMW where his last appointment was vice-president of Land Rover (which was under BMW control from 1994 to 2000 before being sold to Ford).

He was later director of production, quality and product planning at Ford’s now-defunct Premier Automotive Group (which included Jaguar and Land Rover) and, most recently, was head of global operations at the Linde Group.

Ravi Kant said: "The introduction of Dr Ralf Speth into Jaguar Land Rover under the guidance of Carl-Peter Forster will considerably strengthen the management of the company and enhance the position and reputation of the two iconic brands in line with the long-term strategy of the company.”

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