In a surprise move and without clear explanation, John Krafcik is out as President and CEO of Hyundai North America despite the fact he oversaw the maker’s most successful rise in sales and market share during his five-year run.
Dave Zuchowski, currently Hyundai’s executive vice president of U.S. sales, will take over as President and CEO on Jan. 1, 2014.
It has been widely reported, several Hyundai competitors targeted Krafcik for senior management positions. While no official explanation was given for his departure, sources tell TheDetroitBureau.com the recruiting was not the reason his contract was not renewed.
“It’s been a sincere privilege and honor to lead Hyundai Motor America over the past five years, and I am confident that with Dave’s succession, our brand will continue to expand and thrive for years to come,” said Krafcik in a statement that gave no reason for his departure.
“We have many of the best and brightest employees in the business coupled with a committed and talented dealer network that will continue to pay dividends.”
Krafcik, who joined Hyundai in 2004 as vice president of product development and strategic planning, is one of the few American senior executives who have enjoyed a lengthy tenure at a Korean automaker.
Many industry veterans claim that Korean leadership can be difficult to work for and especially intolerant of mistakes no matter how small.
Krafcik appeared to be able to avoid many of these issues, in part due to his background engineering and understanding of the big picture trends and issues of the North American automotive industry. He was also known for his collegial relationship with the media; something that his contemporaries in Asia followed closely.
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However, the maker faced a few difficulties this year, including slow sales growth due to production capacity restraints and a messy debacle involving erroneous mileage figures for Hyundai vehicles. The maker falsified records regarding the actual results, and just recently reached a settlement with owners of the affected vehicles.
Some suggest that Krafcik clashed with his Korean counterparts on how best to handle the problem, with the American pushing for a mea culpa while the parent company leadership hoping to simply sidestep the entire issue.
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During Krafcik’s tenure, Hyundai Motor America experienced dramatic increases in sales volume and market share, and earned several prestigious industry awards. The 2009 Genesis and 2012 Elantra took top honors as North American Car of the Year, while numerous models received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick designation.
Prior to joining Hyundai, Krafcik worked at Ford Motor Co. and NUMMI, the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota Motor Co.