Hyundai Fires Its American CEO for Not Keeping the Good Times Rolling: Report

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

There’s room at the top at Hyundai Motor America after the sudden firing of CEO David Zuchowski, insider sources claim.

According to Automotive News, Zuchowski, who joined the company as sales chief in 2007 before taking the top job two years ago, didn’t achieve internal sales targets. As such, he’s reportedly out the door, replaced by an interim leader.

It might be hard finding someone to replicate Hyundai’s sizzling post-recession sales performance.

Sources close to the matter claim the automaker’s U.S. dealer body was informed of the firing last night, with company employees notified this morning. Until the automaker finds a replacement, executive vice president Jerry Flannery will take the helm of Hyundai’s American operations.

The automaker roared back from the recession with huge sales gains, but the rebound eventually dwindled. According to TTAC sales guru Timothy Cain, Hyundai’s U.S. sales increased 24 percent in 2010, 20 percent in 2011, and 9 percent in 2012. Sales then slowed, with 3 percent growth reported in 2013, 1 percent in 2014, and 5 percent last year. The past 11 months shows a 1.3 percent sales bump in a flat market.

Not bad for a challenging marketplace, but not good enough for the powers that be at Hyundai.

“Growth has stalled,” said Cain. “But that’s partly the nature of rapid growth. You can’t keep growing that way. And they had production limitations on crossovers that is improving.”

He adds that Hyundai’s incentive spending hovers around the industry average.

The automaker’s fuel-efficient small cars were a hit during a prolonged period of high gas prices, but things have changed. Passengers cars represent an ever-shrinking minority of new vehicle sales as pump prices remain low. And, while Hyundai’s crossover lineup continues to enjoy healthy sales increases, its small car lineup has taken a big hit.

Clearly, Zuchowski got the message, albeit too late. Last month, he announced two new utility models — a subcompact (due in 2018) and sub-subcompact crossover — as well as a revamp of existing models. The compact Tucson will grow slightly, while the Santa Fe Sport is due to grow in size and take on a more rugged look. The larger Santa Fe will grow into an eight-passenger model and ditch its name.

While this could indeed put wind in Hyundai’s sails, it seems the move comes too late to save Zuchowski’s job.

[Image: Hyundai Motor America]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • BobinPgh BobinPgh on Dec 22, 2016

    Donald with a goatee! Looks like his next job will be in Washington.

  • Zackman Zackman on Dec 22, 2016

    I would have fired the guy, too. Goatees went out with Mark McGuire, plus goatees make you look like a scumbag on just about any level.

    • Whatnext Whatnext on Dec 22, 2016

      There's a word for men without facial hair - Women. ;)

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
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  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...