By on April 18, 2019

Image: Hyundai

José Muñoz, who resigned as Nissan’s chief performance officer 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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14 Comments on “Former Top Nissan Exec Arrives at Hyundai, Asked to Look After North America...”

  • avatar

    The over/under on this is six months.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I wish Muñoz much luck, but he may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Hyundai changes executives more frequently than some people change their socks.

    • 0 avatar

      May be but they do not send them to jail.

    • 0 avatar

      Would say a better move for Munoz than for Hyundai (who has a rep for being a bit of a hard-arse when it comes to dealers).

      Nissan’s lineup is a bit of a mess right now, whereas Munoz is joining Hyundai in the midst of 8 months of sales growth – which should only continue w/ the additions of the Palisade, Venue, the new Sonata, new Tucson, Santa Cruz etc.

      It would seem that Munoz is shepherding that continued growth when actually would just be fortuitous timing.

      Not exactly impressed w/ his tenure at Nissan (relying on $$ on the hood and fleet to drive sales growth), but to be fair, that may be more on Ghosn.

      • 0 avatar

        It was definitely on Ghosn. He was responsible for cutting costs so much that there wasn’t investment in making competitive products. That led to Nissan throwing $$ on the hood to get the vehicles to sell.

        • 0 avatar

          No doubt Ghosn was also the one who demanded to see Nissan sales/marketshare increase, but it was Munoz who decided to throw all that ## onto the hood and dump into fleet.

          Maybe that was the only realistic way of meeting Ghosn’s demands, but Munoz should have persuaded Ghosn to lower his demands.

          That short-time gain/increase in sales has a longer negative effect on Nissan.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Yep-I would agree. The Koreans call the shots about the rest of the world’s automotive needs are despite the fact many times they are so off the mark. Take the beginning of the Genesis brand-trying to sell higher end sedans from a dealership who pushes cars out the doors to customers with marginal credit.

    I had an engineer executive friend of mine (guy made big, big bucks) buy a Genesis when they first came out. He said the dealer’s tactics were something out of the 70’s.

    • 0 avatar

      That was actually the RIGHT move (and was based on former Hyundai USA head, Krafcik’s recommendation).

      During the planning period for the launch of the Genesis sedan, the sub-prime bubble popped and the US economy went into free-fall.

      Not exactly the time to launch a separate lux brand, much less build out a separate lux dealer network (to sell only ONE model).

      Plus, the credit market had frozen, so it’s not like there would have been financing for dealer groups to purchase land and build a new store.

      Sales also reflect that it was the right decision at the time.

      The Genesis sedan became the 3rd best seller in the segment (after the E Class and 5 Series), in part due to the lower pricing which was made possible by eschewing the cost of a separate dealer network.

      The person in charge of separating Genesis from Hyundai and setting up a separate Genesis dealer network is American and he messed it up big time.

      Anyhow, the Koreans are no longer calling the shots when it comes to product planning – having reorganized and giving each region a lot more autonomy when it comes to product.

  • avatar

    “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.

  • avatar

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

    • 0 avatar

      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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