Former Top Nissan Exec Arrives at Hyundai, Asked to Look After North America

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
former top nissan exec arrives at hyundai asked to look after north america

José Muñoz, who resigned as Nissan’s chief performance office r in January, is now on the Hyundai payroll. Muñoz jumped ship as turmoil roiled Nissan’s upper ranks and investigations began in the wake of former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s arrest.

The exec, seen as a close ally to Ghosn, previously served as chairman of the automaker’s North American business — a region he’s returning to, albeit with another automaker.

In leaving Nissan after 15 years, Muñoz remarked, “Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus. As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations.”

On Thursday, Hyundai announced the appointment of Muñoz as the automaker’s chief operating officer. He’ll also add the title of president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America and the recently created Hyundai Motor North America region to his CV.

“José Muñoz has an impressive track record and is proven to be a visionary and motivational leader who is adept at all aspects of our business,” said Wonhee Lee, President of Hyundai Motor Company, in a statement.

“His decades of automotive and technology experience make him well suited for this new role as we move the company to the next step. We are looking forward to Mr. Muñoz joining the team, and will lean on his leadership skills and vision to achieve long-term sustainable growth and evolve into a Smart Mobility Solutions Provider.”

After capitalizing in a growing economy and low, low interest rates in the wake of the recession, Hyundai’s sales growth hit a roadblock in 2017, losing volume and market share. A hurried plan to soak the market in new crossovers is just now bearing fruit.

“I am excited to join Hyundai Motor at this vital time in its history,” Muñoz said in a statement. “My capabilities around delivering steady profitable growth, managing the entire supply chain, and working together with our dealer partners to find win-win solutions match up well with the opportunity here. I am eager to bring best global practices from the automobile and technology industries to my new role as COO of Hyundai Motor Company and am honored to join this esteemed corporation.”

Muñoz starts work on May 1st in Fountain Valley, California.

The news of Muñoz’s new responsibilities at Hyundai comes as the Korean automaker launches a revamped Sonata sedan and an A-segment crossover called Venue in North America, bolstering the recent introduction of a new Santa Fe and range-topping Palisade.

March marked the eighth consecutive month of monthly year-over-year sales increases in the United States.

[Image: Hyundai]

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6 of 14 comments
  • SPPPP SPPPP on Apr 18, 2019

    "Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus. As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations." This statement lacks context, but it seems like a bizarre thing to say. What does that mean, you're breaking up with Nissan because they "need some time to straighten things out"? You look forward to helping Nissan with its investigations? Do you like the idea of torpedoing your former boss? Or is it that you want to make sure you get to sit on the "prosecution" side of the table? Again, there's not much context, but this guy comes across as very self-centered so far. I guess that is consistent with the C-suite jobs.

    • See 2 previous
    • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 19, 2019

      He's just looking out for his own benefit. Nissan USA will be facing some tough times the next 2-3 years whereas Hyundai should continue seeing sales growth.

  • WhatsMyNextCar WhatsMyNextCar on Apr 18, 2019

    I hope he doesn't bring any Nissan philosophy to Hyundai, namely the CVT junk and hideous Nissan design language.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 19, 2019

      Hyundai already starting adding a CVT (they call it an IVT) to certain models/trims, but it's supposed to be one of the better ones out there (chain, not a belt).

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