Hyundai U.S. Sales Vice President Derrick Hatami Is Out, Effective Immediately

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Updated at 10:00pm on June 6 with response from Hyundai.

Derrick Hatami, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of sales for less than two years, has been removed from Hyundai’s leadership team as of today, June 6, 2017.

After record annual volume in the 2016 calendar year, Hyundai’s U.S. sales have been falling fast throughout 2017. Year-over-year, Hyundai volume declined in each of the last six months, including an 18-percent decline in May 2017.

That decline enabled partner brand Kia to outsell Hyundai for the first time in the brands’ U.S. history, evidently a source of embarrassment for Hyundai. Having already forced out the company’s U.S. CEO, Dave Zuchowski, just before Christmas last year after Hyundai’s rapid growth stalled, Derrick Hatami’s departure leaves a hole that will be filled in the interim by Hyundai’s southern regional general manager, Sam Brnovich, according to Automotive News.

Last week, Hyundai wasn’t short on excuses for the company’s poor May performance. This week, the excuses were apparently not good enough.

Prior to his tenure as Hyundai Motor America’s sales leader, Derrick Hatami was, in fact, previously a Hyundai employee. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hatami became Hyundai’s director of revenue management and strategic planning in 2005. Hatami moved up Hyundai’s corporate ladder to become the general manager of the U.S. western region in 2010.

Hatami switched allegiances in 2014 for a 21-month run as the vice president for sales at Nissan North America. Nissan set U.S. sales records in 2014 and 2015 — admittedly having done so in 2013, prior to Hatami’s reign — before Hatami moved back to Hyundai Motor America.

Recognizing the issues at play upon his return to Hyundai, Hatami ominously told Automotive News, “You’re never going to have everybody completely happy.”

Hatami and Zuchowski worked virtually hand in hand. “We’re on the same page more times than not,” Hatami said.

That page was already rejected by Hyundai HQ in Zuchowski’s case. Now, Derrick Hatami finds out what it’s like to disappoint the Hyundai brass in early 2017.

“Derrick served the company well during his time as head of sales and we wish him nothing but success,” Hyundai told Automotive News.

Hyundai reached out to TTAC Tuesday evening in an attempt to correct the record, stating that Derrick Hatami left the company of his own accord and that the link to Zuchowski’s departure is incorrect.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jun 07, 2017

    Here's Peter De Lorenzo's take over at The Autoextremist, in today's On The Table: "Hyundai. Editor-In-Chief's Note: As I said in my Autoextremist Brand Image Meter column this week, there’s no use telling Korean auto executives what to do. They know absolutely everything there is to know about absolutely everything. And if you're an executive in their employ who doesn’t concur with the company line - or excuses - you are jettisoned in favor of someone who will. Hyundai has been careening around like this for years, and there’s no relief in sight. And, as if on cue, Hyundai fired its top sales guy this week, Derrick Hatami. Or he resigned. The ugly reality for Hyundai? The company has lost its mojo in the U.S. market. Remember, Hyundai just jettisoned its U.S. CEO, Dave Zuchowski, last December. According to Automotive News, Hyundai brand sales dropped 18 percent in May, to 58,259 units. That's also six straight months of sales declines, year over year. For 2017, sales are down 7.5 percent to 283,547 units. Hyundai's notorious shortsighted thinking is on full display here. They look for quick fixes and fire executives left and right instead of taking a long, hard look at the way they do business. The company makes strategic and product mistakes, then it plays the blame game because, well, you know, it's never their fault. This just in: Yeah, it is. -PMD"

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jun 07, 2017

    "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.