THE chief executive of Sherburn-in-Elmet bus manufacturer Optare plc is to step down. Jim Sumner said he had decided to leave on December 31 to pursue other business opportunities.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by PG Nilsson, Ashok Leyland’s head of international business, along with Glenn Saint, Optare’s chief technical officer, acting as deputy chief executive.

Mr Nilsson joined the board of Optare in March this year and previously held significant positions at both Scania and MAN before joining Ashok in 2010.

Mr Sumner said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank my management team and all of the staff and employees who have worked incredibly hard to restructure and turn around the business.”

He was very proud of achievements including moving from three factories to a new lower-cost assembly facility, establishing market leadership in low-carbon single deck buses, putting the first electric buses into operation in the UK and winning its largest ever export order from South Africa.

He said: “I believe that this is the right time for me to step down from the board having substantially completed the turnaround objectives we set out to achieve and also in securing Optare’s long-term future as part of Ashok Leyland.”