GM says Kaher Kazem to head India unit from Jan. 1 – Reuters

Posted: Monday, December 07, 2015

BEIJING General Motors Co (GM.N) said on Monday Kaher Kazem will become head of its India unit effective Jan. 1 after the current chief, Arvind Saxena, retires as general manager at year-end.

Kazem, a 46-year-old Australian executive who became GM India’s chief operating officer in August this year, is highly regarded within the company for leading GM’s Uzbekistan operations from 2012, company sources have said. He has been with GM since 1995.

His appointment comes as the automaker struggles to boost sales in the world’s fifth-largest auto market due to a lack of competitive products.

GM’s sales in India fell by about 37 percent to 31,528 vehicles in the year to October compared with the same period a year earlier, industry data showed. Total passenger vehicle sales over the same period rose by more than 7 percent.

Kazem’s appointment also comes on the heels of a shift in GM’s Asia strategy to focus more on India, taking some of the strain off South Korea, a big export hub for GM where labour costs have ballooned in recent years.

The carmaker announced in July that it would invest $1 billion over the next five years to turn India into a global export hub and boost sales of its Chevrolet brand with 10 new domestically manufactured vehicles. It will also stop production at one of two plants in India to cut costs.

By 2020, analysts expect India to become the world’s third-largest passenger vehicle market after China and the United States.

“GM is committed to India for the long term. Kaher’s proven track record will enable us to deliver,” Stefan Jacoby, chief of GM International whose operations include those in India, said in a statement.

The company did not have further comment on why the 55-year-old Saxena, who had previously worked at Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) in India, decided to retire from GM after only about two years in the job.

In 2014, the year Saxena joined GM, the company’s annual sales fell by about a third to 57,565 vehicles, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. GM’s current market share is about 1.2 percent from 1.8 percent in 2014, data showed.

(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing, additional reporting by Aditi Shah in New Delhi.; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Christopher Cushing)

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