Departing GM Europe head talks to Tata

Carl-Peter Forster, the departing head of General Motors in Europe, is in talks with Tata Motors over a senior position at the Indian carmaker’s luxury car group Jaguar Land Rover.

People close to GM Europe told the Financial Times that Mr Forster was in talks with two companies over a possible high-ranking management position: Tata and another company “in the broader engineering sector”.

The people said the manager could take a prominent role at British-based JLR, which has been hit by a sharp drop in demand in the premium car sector.

“Nothing has been signed yet, but there are intense talks and a decision could come within the next weeks,” a person briefed with the matter said.

Both Tata and GM Europe declined to comment. The revelation came just days after GM said Mr Forster would leave the company following the carmaker’s decision to hold on to Opel and Vauxhall, GM’s European operations.

GM will on Tuesday unveil its transition team for Vauxhall/Opel.

Mr Forster’s replacement is still unclear. However, Nick Reilly, GM’s head of international operations will take over Vauxhall on an interim basis. In the meantime, GM aims to poach an external manager to permanently replace him.

GM’s decision to retain Opel sparked uproar in Germany, where the works council and the government had both backed Magna International as a buyer for the carmaker. Fritz Henderson, GM’s chief executive, and Mr Reilly will travel to Germany next week to try to placate the unions and ask Berlin for state aid.

Tata wants Mr Forster to help JLR’s plans to switch its product portfolio to low-emission vehicles. Mr Forster became GM Europe’s head five years ago, where he pushed for a quality offensive and a move into low-emission and electric cars. The aerodynamics engineer had been a strong supporter of the plan to sell the Opel/Vauxhall unit to Magna, the Canadian car parts maker.

The manager, who will negotiate the conditions for his departure from GM this week, gained experience with Land Rover during his time as head of production at BMW in the 1990s.

Talks with Tata started earlier this year, but Mr Forster has also held talks with other companies in the car industry in the past months, people close to the situation said.

Insiders said he was this year asked by Schaeffler, one of Germany’s largest car parts suppliers, to become their new chief executive. But the owners eventually decided against it. Even though he has another offer from an industrial company in another sector, it is likely he will stay in the car industry.

“I was once called a stalwart of the car industry and I will in any case stay in the automotive sector,” he said, when he was still unaware that GM would decide to retain Opel.

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