Hyundai Motor shakes things up

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Hyundai Motor shakes things up

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Hyundai Motor Group announced a drastic year-end reshuffle on Wednesday, appearing to pave the way for a generational power transition at the family-run auto group.

A number of top decision makers at the group who were close aides of Chairman Chung Mong-koo were replaced with executives scouted by the group’s heir apparent and Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun.

Albert Biermann, a former BMW executive involved in developing the German carmaker’s high-performance M division, was named the first non-Korean head to lead research and development for Hyundai and Kia. The German engineer - one of the younger Chung’s choices - is taking the jobs of two current vice chairman - Yang Woong-chul and Kwon Moon-sik - who had led R&D for years under the elder Chung.

The Korean automaker said appointing a foreign expert to the position is part of its efforts to push forward open innovation, emphasizing that the decision was made based on performance.

Earlier in October, the company appointed former Bentley designer Luc Donckerwolke as chief design officer at Hyundai Motor and former BMW M executive Thomas Schemera as head of the group’s product planning and strategy division.

Chi Young-cho, executive vice president of Hyundai Motor Group and the man responsible for crafting its future business strategies, was promoted to president. Hyundai’s heir apparent was also involved in recruiting Chi from Samsung Electronics.

With a more prominent status in the group, Chi will work to transform the automaker into a smart mobility solution provider and pursue business projects related to smart mobility, robotics and artificial intelligence, according to the group.

Other key executives at Hyundai Motor Group were moved to management positions at affiliated companies.

Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Kim Yong-hwan, who was in charge of making strategic business decisions for the group alongside Chairman Chung, was named vice chairman at Hyundai Steel, smoothly stepping back from the frontlines of the auto conglomerate.

Hyundai Motor President Chung Jin-haeng, in charge of communications and government affairs, was promoted to vice chairman, but moved to manage the group’s construction affiliate Hyundai Engineering and Construction. Kong Young-woon, executive vice president at Hyundai Motor, was promoted to president and will take on Chung’s role at the auto group.

Former Hyundai Steel Vice Chairman Woo Yoo-cheol was named vice chairman of Hyundai Rotem, which makes locomotives. Park Chung-kook, CEO of Hyundai Kefico, was newly named as head of Hyundai Mobis, the group’s auto parts affiliate.

The radical reshuffle raised expectations of a potential leadership transition from the 80-year-old elder Chung to his son, who was promoted to executive vice chairman of the group in September. Hyundai said that it opted for a generational change in leadership to stay competitive in the fast-changing market.

It has been a difficult year for the automaker with its lackluster sales in the United States and China and it hopes the company will climb out of its slump with a new generation of leaders.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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