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Sales Guru Hatami Dumps Hyundai for Volkswagen of America

Hyundai loses second top exec in less than six months.

by on Jun.09, 2017

Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of VW of America, expects the arrival of the Atlas to bolster the company's sluggish sales in the U.S.

Just one day after resigning as Hyundai Motors U.S. sales chief, Derrick Hatami is taking over as Volkswagen of America Inc.’s Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing.

Actually, the announcement came a day after it was revealed he was leaving the South Korean automaker. His appointment at VW is effective June 12.

Beyond the Headlines!

In this role, Hatami will be responsible for setting and driving the sales, marketing, product planning and aftersales strategy for VWoA in order to help promote growth, improve processes and elevate dealer satisfaction, VW said in a statement confirming Hatami’s appointment.

Hatami will report to Hinrich J. Woebcken, president and CEO, Volkswagen of America.

“We are excited to welcome Derrick at Volkswagen of America,” said Woebcken, a former BMW executive who was recruited specifically to help turnaround VW’s fortunes in North America.

“His proven record of leadership experience in the automotive industry will serve as an asset as we work towards growth in the U.S. market.”

(VW looks to win back faithful with an array of new concepts. Click Here for a look.)

Volkswagen of America, which hasn’t made a profit in years, is struggling with the fallout from the diesel-cheating scandal that began in 2015 that led to a precipitous drop in sales.

Woebcken, however, noted in an interview at the New York Auto Show that sales have made a comeback this year and that VW is counting on the new Atlas SUV to bring new customers into showroom. Sales of the Atlas began last month.

Hatami has more than 17 years of automotive OEM and related experience having worked for Hyundai and Nissan. Earlier in his career he worked for JD Power & Associates and Accenture, serving as a strategy consultant to the automotive industry.

Earlier this week, Hatami resigned as vice president of sales at Hyundai for “personal reasons.”

(VW offers big deals on fixed diesel leftovers. Click Here for the story.)

The exit came shortly after Hyundai reported that its U.S. sales dropped 15.5% in May versus a 1% drop in the overall market, making it the worst performer among auto sellers in the United States. So far, Hyundai’s sales are down 5% for 2017.

Hyundai has struggled to maintain sales momentum in recent years, dogged by its heavy reliance on sedans, which have been losing ground to crossovers and sport utility vehicles, which now make up more than half the market.

The South Korean automaker is looking to stem that tide a bit with a new small crossover, the Kona, which will hit showrooms later this year.

Hatami is the second top U.S. executive in the past six months to quit as the South Korean automaker grapples with slumping sales. Hyundai’s top U.S. executive Dave Zuchowski quit in December. Hyundai also replaced its sales chief in South Korea and its China head last year after the company, along with affiliate Kia Motors, posted its first annual global sales fall in nearly two decades.

(Sales on the rebound, VW delivers big surge in Q1 earnings. Click Here for the story.)

Hyundai has still not named a successor to Zuchowski, with interim leader W. Gerald Flannery overseeing the automaker’s operations in its second-biggest market after China.

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