Hyundai CEO Dave Zuchowski Just Got Fired

Dec 24, 2016 08:00 AM EST | Joanne Zamora

Hyundai Motor America just fired CEO Dave Zuchowski, 58, who joined Hyundai as U.S. sales chief in 2007, for failing to meet an internal sales target. He was widely respected in the dealer body.

He took the CEO position in 2014, succeeding John Krafcik, when Hyundai's growth was starting to slow. In Korea, businesses often see the end of the year as the perfect time for a leadership change, making this departure a holiday spoiler for Zuchowski, something that is hardly a surprise to Hyundai-watchers. The decision is effective immediately.

According to Automotive News, Hyundai's sales until November were up 1.3 percent to 707,485 units, not including the Genesis luxury brand, which recorded 1,306 units. U.S. sales for the Hyundai cars, including models which now fall under the Genesis umbrella, hit a record in 2015 of 761,710 units, higher by five percent from the previous year, but the growth rates are down from double-digit growth in 2010 and 2011.

Forbes said that while Hyundai's car sales were down 5.3 percent, one model, the rental car favorite, Hyundai Accent, was up 28.7 percent, which cannot be good for profit as sales to fleet customers tend to have lower margins. Hyundai does not break out U.S. operating results.

Unfortunately for Hyundai (and Dave Zuchowski), the Korean brand was not well represented in the crossover market. Hyundai now has three CUVs, the Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Sport and the Tucson. While all are fine vehicles, still, they were not nearly enough to meet demand.

Jerry Flannery, 59, general counsel and executive vice president, shall replace Dave Zuchowski as the interim CEO until a successor is appointed. Hyundai says it shall begin its search immediately. In a statement, Flannery said that they appreciate Dave's decade of service to Hyundai, especially his leadership as president and CEO which has made them a stronger organization. He also added that he looks forward to "working closely with their dealers, affiliates, senior management and talented and hardworking employees across the country to realize Hyundai's full potential."

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