When Renault and Nissan signed an agreement to form an alliance, few expected it to work. In fact, according to the book “Shift” (or was it “Turn Around”?), Bob Lutz was quoted as saying that Renault would be better off taking the money they spent on the Nissan stake, putting it on a ship, sailing it into the middle of the ocean and sinking it. Another accurate prediction from the One of Maximum Bullsh*t. The reason that the Renault-Nissan has worked so well so far is, according to Carlos Ghosn, communication. Without communication, how can you expect your partner to understand you? Sounds simple, right? Not to Hyundai and Kia.
While checking on the local Alabama news, I came across this article by the Montgomery Advertiser. Alabama is home to a Hyundai plant. The article details the handover of Santa Fe production from Hyundai’s plant in Alabama to Kia’s one in Georgia. The plants are less than 100 miles apart and they already supply each other with engines and (soon) transmissions, so you’d expect this transfer of production to be a piece of Alabama Mud Cake? Not really.
When Kia announced it would be making the Kia Sorento, a CUV which shared the same platform as the Santa Fe and looked very similar to each other, it pretty much put it beyond reasonable doubt that production of the Santa Fe would move to Georgia. Kia drafted up a four-paragraph press release about the plans. A copy went to Robert Burns, a spokesperson for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing. Then the communications problems started.
The press release was embargoed until 8am on a Tuesday. Corrine Hodges, a spokesperson for the Kia plant in Georgia, refused to talk about the press release and wouldn’t even acknowledge the press release’s existence. This sounds like normal behavior for a PR person, until you realize that Ms Hodges was acting like this AFTER the embargo had expired. Why was she denying a press release after it was OK to publish?
On the same day, Mr Burns confirmed the press release and the contents, but still wouldn’t release it until there was no confusion over the matter. Then the Montgomery Advertiser got involved.
The Montgomery Advertiser got ready to publish the information on the press release and it not being issued, just yet, on the internet. Mr Burns had agreed to be a named source in the story…right up until the story was about to be published. Before the story went live, the Montgomery Advertiser received a phone call from Mr Burns stating that he didn’t want to be considered the named source of the story. Two hours later, Mr Burns phoned back allowing the story to be published as he got permission from “higher-ups” to release the story. But he still didn’t make public the press release from Kia.
The article then states that “Hodges sent the release, clearly marked with an embargo date and time, to Burns, but didn’t call him back to recall the whole thing. She, or someone at Kia, shared the release with others in Montgomery and likely elsewhere, but didn’t let them know to hold it.” Sounds like a bit of a clusterNSFW ? Well, there may be a reason behind this.
It seems that in the US operations of Hyundai and Kia, neither plant share any bosses. They’re two independent entities. Kia doesn’t report to Hyundai and vice versa. You have to go all the way to South Korea, before a merging in management happens. Now, I don’t wish to illogically extrapolate from this one incident, but could this lack of communication have ramifications further down the line? I mean Old GM’s brands didn’t really communicate with each other and an aloof management at Toyota brought about its current problems. Whereas at Ford, Alan Mulally got departments talking and communicating with each other. Which allows them to work together better. I’m sure Hyundai and Kia will address this problem. Unless they speak some Korean dialects that are mutually unintelligible.