GM India bets on Arvind Saxena
To hand over reins of India ops to industry veteran March onwards
Less than two years ago, Arvind Saxena (centre in pic) moved from his successful role at the helm of marketing and sales at Hyundai, to a similar role at an “underperforming” Volkswagen. But things at the German conglomerate have obviously not been smooth for the the 54-year-old engineer from Allahabad. So, he has decided to return to his home base Delhi and taken over an equally tough challenge of getting General Motors into the mainstream of Indian automotive industry.
Saxena has been appointed President and Managing Director of GM India and takes over from American Lowell C Paddock who now has moved to a global role. The news has come as a surprise to many as Saxena was believed to be the the man for the job to reverse the trend of VW’s slowing-moving sales graph. With over three decades of experience in marketing and sales he was considered the right person for the job. But sources within the company say that even with his experience it wasn’t smooth sailing for Saxena. The maze of ever-changing directors and continuous intrusions by the parent company didn’t make matters easy.
But that’s in the past now. Saxena now has a new set of challenges. He is GM India’s fourth managing director in the last eight years where every successive MD has got a bigger set of woes with getting the Chevrolet brand up to mark. But it looks like a problem, Saxena would be more adept at handling than his predecessors because he knows the nitty-gritties of the market better when it comes to bringing in the numbers. It is right up his alley. Product-wise, in the Indian context, most Chevy’s are sorted.
Apart from an embarrassing low like the ‘Tavera emission issue’ if its cars have faltered it is because as a brand Chevy hasn’t moved up in India. There was a brief period of frenzied activity when the Late Karl Slym took over in October 2007 and pushed a series of sales initiatives but even that didn’t help much in the long run.
But the situation isn’t new to Saxena. In the last decade, he was instrumental in raising the bar of Hyundai’s brand with more practical aspects of business like network, sales and after-sales experience and even cars with seemingly good value thanks to all creature comforts, things that matter a lot to an average Indian car buyer. And that’s precisely what General Motors would want him to do at Chevrolet.
While GM has been quick to make public the arrival of Saxena in its fold, VW is taking it’s time. It has not announced a direct replacement for now, but has revealed that Frenchman Thierry Lespiaucq, boss of its Mexican operations, will take over VW passenger car duties as part of his bigger role of being Managing Director of VW Group Sales (overseeing VW and other sister brands Audi, Skoda, Lamborghini and Porsche). He starts in May, later this year but in all likelihood VW will eventually bring in someone to replace the chair made vacant by Saxena.
This should be interesting.