Jim Sumner, director and CEO of Ashok Leyland UK’s subsidiary, Optare, will step down by the year-end. Per Gustav Nilsson, non-executive director of Optare, will assume the role of interim CEO till the company finds a permanent replacement.
Optare is one of the key acquisitions Ashok Leyland made to penetrate into the European markets. At the time of acquisition, the Hinduja group company had said Optare products would bolster its ambition of becoming one of the top-five bus companies in the world.
Sumner joined the board of Optare in June 2009 and he was the key person to manage the turnround of the business.
“The board believes all the principal objectives of that turnround have been substantially achieved in terms of restructuring, new factory investment, low-carbon product developments and refinancing. Jim feels the time is right for him to move on and pursue other business interests,” the company said.
According to John Fickling, chairman of Optare, Sumner has done an outstanding job in turning the business round from “an extremely difficult position”.
The interim CEO Nilsson has considerable experience in the industry, having held positions as managing director of Scania CIS, followed by four years as managing director of MAN Russia.
In 2010, Ashok Leyland acquired a 26 per cent stake in Optare for around Rs 28 crore and in 2011, it increased the stake to about 75 per cent.
Optare's flagship product Solo is expected to hit the Indian roads soon. Solo is one of the successful bus models in the European market.
Solo will help Ashok Leyland to offer a product between normal and luxury segments.
Currently, domestic players are focussed on the normal or entry level segment, while multi-national vehicle makers are eyeing the luxury segment.
There is a wide gap between the two segments.
“If Solo fits in this space, then Ashok Leyland has got big scope,” said an Analyst.
An MNC, which is a competitor of Ashok Leyland, accepted the fact Solo could fit in the mid level space and he also acknowledged that the new entrants may not be able to compete with Ashok Leyland in the entry or normal segment for now, since they have cost advantage due to volume which they already have and sourcing advantages.