Jagdish Khattar: The auto industry loses an affable mentor

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on April 26, 2021

Jagadish Khattar (1942-2021)   -  Business Line

Former MD of Maruti Udyog passes away

The Indian automobile industry lost a true veteran and a mentor for many —Jagdish Khattar, the former Managing Director, Maruti Udyog Ltd (now Maruti Suzuki India), who died on Monday due to cardiac arrest. He was 79.

This reporter, who was new to journalism and working with a news agency, first met him at the Grand Vitara launch in 2007. As a new kid, this reporter was a bit nervous while interacting with him post the launch. But, an ever-smiling Khattar, whomade reporters comfortable during conversations, responded to all queries patiently.

During his tenure at Maruti, Khattar had to deal with issues like the workers’ strike in 2000 at the company’s Gurugram plant demanding wage hikes, incentives and pensions, even as the government and the Japanese partner continued to squabble over various issues.

The last Indian as an MD of Suzuki Motor’s Indian subsidiary, Khattar also ensured that Maruti Suzuki commanded 50 per cent of the passenger vehicles market in India despite growing competition from global players. And, till today, even though many new players have come on the scene, the company’s market share remains intact.

SIAM head

As the President of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), many remember him for his active role in making the industry body a strong advocacy.

“He was not only the turnaround team leader for Maruti but took active role in making SIAM a strong advocacy body for Indian automobile industry as it's President,” recalls Sugato Sen, former Deputy Director General, SIAM, via a tweet.

However, his post-retirement venture — Carnation Auto — did not do well because a business of running a multi-brand car service chain was very new in India then. Prevalent in the Western countries, the concept found little takers here.

The failure of his entrepreneurial venture also came into limelight in the recent years, when he and his company Carnation Auto, were booked by the CBI in 2019, for allegedly causing loss to the tune of ₹110 crore to Punjab National Bank.

However, Khattar defended himself saying that an independent forensic audit, at the behest of the bankers, did not find any wrongdoings in the functioning of his company.

Khattar will always be remembered as one of the changemakers of the Indian automobile industry and credited for passenger cars such as the Alto, Swift and WagonR, which are still the ‘people’s cars’, reigning as the best selling cars in the Indian automobile industry.

Published on April 26, 2021

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