Just four days after Hyundai and its Kia affiliate settled a $395 million class-action lawsuit, Hyundai America announced that President and CEO John Krafcik will leave on Dec. 31.
Krafcik, 52, has been at the Korean automaker since March 2004. His tenure as CEO of the Hyundai's U.S. operations, which dates back to November 2008, saw Hyundai reduce EPA gas-mileage estimates due to misinterpreted procedures across more than a dozen models in November 2012. But it also saw the brand balloon from just 3 percent of U.S. new-car sales in 2008 to more than 4.6 percent today. Through November, Hyundai and its Kia affiliate are the sixth largest automaker by sales. In 2008, Hyundai-Kia was a distant seventh.
Credit the surge to stylish redesigns like the current Elantra, which won Cars.com's 2011 compact-car comparison and placed second in a rematch versus fresh competition more than two years later. The Genesis luxury sedan won our highest award in 2009, while the current Sonata beat seven other contenders in Cars.com's 2010 family-sedan comparison. The Santa Fe Sport, meanwhile, ranked second among six players in this year's $38,000 Midsize SUV Challenge.
It's unclear where Krafcik is headed. Im Tak Uk, the Korean automaker's global COO, commended the outgoing CEO's "forward-looking perspective, commitment to quality and design, and pursuit of innovative new product offerings."
Krafcik holds degrees from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to Hyundai, he held positions in product development, production research and manufacturing at Ford, MIT and California's New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. — a onetime joint facility between GM and Toyota.
Sales chief Dave Zuchowski, 55, will take over the CEO role on Jan. 1, 2014.