Rao’s exit happens at a critical time for Skoda, when the parent VW Group is in the middle of discussing a partnership with Tata Motors, which may see Skoda Auto, playing an active role.
Rao who spent over five years and three months at Skoda was responsible for streamlining the loss-making operations and making it profitable. Rao took over the reins as the MD of Skoda Auto in early 2012 filling the void at the company after four years. Skoda did not have an MD from 2008-2012.
Rao had joined Skoda, after spending four years at Renault India as Deputy MD and COO, where he played a key part from Renault’s side in the divorce process with Mahindra. And there he defined the comeback plan for Renault India’s solo ride. He worked with General Motors for over two decades and he also had a stint with Avtec Engines, a CK Birla Group company.
Rao confirmed the development and told ET, “It has been five challenging but satisfying years. It is time for me to take on new and different challenges outside the automotive industry.”
Rao was credited for taking tough decisions such as discontinuing the loss-making small car Fabia from the portfolio, which pulled down the Czech car makers annual volumes, but helped the company stem the losses. He also had to take tough calls of rationalising the workforce to create a leaner organisation, with over 25% of the workforce being trimmed.
The focus had moved to products over deals under his tenure, said people in the know.
He was also the driving force behind convincing the headquarters to locally engineer the recent Skoda Rapid facelift, a first in the Skoda world. The move which may pave the way for future locally engineered products in India.
Post the discontinuation of Fabia, Skoda as a brand took a clear direction to focus on the premium end of the market. Today Skoda is leading or either a strong challenger in the C and D segment sedan market.
“Mr Sudhir Rao will be leaving ŠKODA AUTO at his own request on 30th June 2017. We would like to thank Mr Sudhir Rao for his commitment over many years and to wish him all the best in his future career. We will be announcing his successor in due course.’ ŠKODA AUTO India spokesperson.
Rao also played a pivotal role in addressing the perception of a car maker with poor sales, after sales and service cost, invariably address the customers grievance himself on a daily basis.. In his last interaction with ET, Rao had stated that he has traversed over 70-80% of that journey on the sales and service perception issue.