V. Sumantran, one of the more prominent faces of Hinduja Automotive and truck-maker Ashok Leyland, has stepped down as Vice-Chairman from the board of both companies.

His sudden resignation, which has taken industry observers by surprise, comes at a time when the economic slowdown has taken a toll on the commercial vehicles industry with Ashok Leyland in particular driving deeply into the red zone.

Dr. Sumantran, who was the Executive Vice-Chairman of Hinduja Automotive Ltd. and the Vice-Chairman of Ashok Leyland, will continue to be an advisor to the Hinduja Group. His resignation will be effective from March 31, 2014.

“What can I say… there is never a good or right time to step down. This is not a complete break as you can see. I will continue to advise the group. In the meantime, I want to write a book and plan on travelling to collect material for it,” Dr. Sumantran said.

Dr. Sumantran, who cut his teeth in Tata Motors before joining the Hinduja Group, was also responsible for the light commercial vehicle business of Ashok Leyland through the company’s joint venture with auto-maker Nissan.

“We’ve done quite a few launches in the past one or two years. We’ve seen the completion of the first phase with our partnership with Nissan, especially with the roll-out of the Dost. I don’t think there was anything specific or sudden that has prompted my departure,” he added.

Ashok Leyland has run up losses over the last three quarters as sales of commercial vehicles have slowed down due to a sluggish economy and rising diesel prices.

“Dr. Sumantran has played a key role in expanding Ashok Leyland’s product range and new businesses and in creating a strong partnership with Nissan. I wish him all success in his new pursuits,” Dheeraj Hinduja, Co-Chairman, Hinduja Automtive Ltd., said, in a statement.

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