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Former Maruti chief Jagdish Khattar passes away

A former bureaucrat, he was considered as one of the most high-profile leaders of the Indian automotive industry
Jagdish Khattar.
Jagdish Khattar.
File picture

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 27.04.21, 02:23 AM

Jagdish Khattar, who led Maruti Suzuki as managing director for eight years, died of cardiac arrest early this morning. He was 79.

A former bureaucrat, Khattar was considered as one of the most high-profile leaders of the Indian automotive industry, laying the foundation for Maruti’s future growth after the government began its divestment in 2002 and gradually exited its joint venture with Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC).


His tenure saw Maruti establishing itself as India’s largest car company. After retiring from Maruti in October 2007, Khattar launched an entrepreneurial venture, Carnation Auto, a multi-brand automobile service network also dealing in used cars business.

“This is a deep personal loss and has come as a big shock. We had worked together for many years. He is someone who had done a lot of good for Maruti,” R. C. Bhargava,  chairman of Maruti Suzuki India, told a television channel.

Khattar had joined the then Maruti Udyog Ltd in July 1993 as director (marketing) and went on to become the executive director (marketing) in the next six years. He was promoted as the joint managing director in 1999, a year that saw various disagreements between SMC and the government. His second term as MD began in May 2002, which was to last till the age of 65 years or end of 2007, whichever was earlier.

Khattar was appointed to the post of MD of Maruti Udyog Ltd, as per an agreement between the partners, who agreed to appoint their nominee for a three-year term.

Even as the government and the Japanese partner continued to squabble over various issues, including ownership and technology transfer, Khattar had also to deal with industrial relations issues when workers at the company's Gurgaon plant went on an indefinite strike in 2000 demanding wage hikes, incentives and pensions, among others.

In 2002, when it was SMC's turn to appoint MD, they renamed Khattar as their nominee. His second term as MD began in May 2002, which was supposed to last till the age of 65 years or end-2007, whichever was earlier.

In 2007, he retired from the top post in the country's largest carmaker, having ensured that the company commanded 50 per cent of the passenger vehicles market in India despite growing competition from global players.

A year after retirement, he founded a multi-brand car service chain, Carnation Auto with many reputed private equity investors including Premji Invest and Gaja Capital backing the venture.

However, his entrepreneurial venture did not reach the heights of success that he achieved when he was helming Maruti Suzuki. In 2019, he was booked by the CBI along with his company Carnation Auto India Limited for allegedly causing losses of Rs 110 crore to Punjab National Bank (PNB).  Khattar had, however, defended himself stating that an exhaustive independent forensic audit at the behest of the bankers did not find any wrongdoings in the functioning of Carnation Auto.

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