Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd deputy managing director K.K. Swamy, who has been with the Indian arm of the Japanese car maker since its inception in India, has quit and may be off to head rival carmaker Volkswagen AG’s operations here, according to people familiar with the matter, who didn’t wish to be named as they are not authorized to speak on the matter.
Swamy’s move comes a month after he announced the car maker would make a small car for the Indian market and build another car plant to meet manufacturing needs. A Toyota spokesman said Monday was Swamy’s last working day at the organization and he was leaving for better prospects. He didn’t elaborate.
K.K. Swamy, deputy managing director, Toyota Kirloskar
Swamy declined to comment on which firm he would be joining and said he had “several options” and was taking a “two-month break” from work. A Volkswagen spokesperson also declined comment.
Swamy, a former managing director of Mysore Kirloskar Ltd, was considered the India face for Toyota in interactions with the government, besides driving marketing initiatives. He led the team from Toyota and the Kirloskar Group, a minority partner in the venture, in the feasibility study that preceded the setting up of a plant in Bangalore in 1997.
It took Toyota, the world’s second largest car maker, a decade in India to announce its plans for a small car for the local market, joining the race somewhat late along with several newer entrants which announced similar plans to tap into the largest segment of the car market here. Japanese rival Suzuki Motor Co. entered India more than 20 years ago with a small car and it sells half of all cars in India. Later this year, Tata Motors Ltd will start selling Tata Nano, the cheapest car in the world, while motorbike maker Bajaj Auto Ltd, has teamed with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. to make a low-cost small car.
Toyota’s focus in the Indian market has been sedans such as the Corolla and the Camry and a min-van like vehicle, Innova. In sedans, it sells less than rival Honda Siel Cars India Ltd, and Innova is its top-seller. Toyota sold around 54,000 vehicles in India in 2007, achieving a turnover of $1 billion.
Toyota Corp. holds 89% stake in the Indian venture with the remaining equity held by Kirloskar Group. Toyota has invested nearly Rs1,500 crore in its factory, and employs nearly 2,400 people.
The plant started production in December 1999 and has a capacity of producing 60,000 units annually.
Since it started operations, Toyota has seen three Japanese-led managing directors, including Hiroshi Nakagawa, who moved from Japan to head the Indian operations in January. In April, Swamy said Toyota would invest Rs1,400 crore in a second plant to make small cars with a capacity of 100,000 units when it begins production in 2010.