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(2nd LD) Hyundai Motor appoints ex-Nissan exec as global COO

Autos 16:54 April 19, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details and background in last 7 paras)

SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's biggest carmaker by sales, said Friday it has appointed a former Nissan Motor executive as global chief operating officer to revive sales in the Americas.

Jose Munoz, who formerly served as chief performance officer at Nissan, will join Hyundai on May 1 to boost sales in the North American and Latin American markets, the company said in a statement.

The 54-year-old native of Spain is expected to improve lackluster sales, particularly in the United States, and enhance profitability based on his expertise and know-how in global automobile business operations, it said.

His decades of automotive and technology experience make him well suited for the post as Hyundai moves to evolve into a smart mobility solutions provider, the statement said.

"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 at Hyundai," Munoz said in the statement.

Hyundai's COO Jose Munoz for the Americas (Yonhap)

Munoz has also been named president and CEO of both Hyundai Motor North America and Hyundai Motor America. He will report to Hyundai's top leadership in Seoul and he will be based in Fountain Valley, California, the statement said.

His appointment to multiple key posts is the latest instance of Hyundai Motor Group's recruiting of foreigners with proven track records at global carmakers such as Audi, BMW and Volkswagen.

The group began its drive to place foreign talent in key decision-making positions by recruiting ex-BMW designer Peter Schreyer to Kia in 2006 with an aim to improve the quality of its vehicles in terms of design and performance.

Dozens of foreigners have since joined the Korean auto group. They include former Bentley chief designer Luc Donckerwolke in charge of vehicle designs at Hyundai and Kia, Thomas Schemera, who led the BMW M performance car division, and former BMW performance car developer Albert Biermann, who is responsible for the development of top-of-the-line vehicles at the group.

Among them, Biermann stands out for being the first foreigner to be named the head of the carmakers' crucial R&D unit. In March, Hyundai's board also appointed Biermann as a board member.

In the past three years, Hyundai and Kia have suffered a sales decline in the U.S., the most important automobile market, having failed to launch competitive SUV models early enough.

Their sales in the U.S. fell to 1,267,619 units in 2018, down from 1,275,223 in 2017 and 1,422,603 in 2016, the companies' sales data showed.

In all, Hyundai and Kia have set a conservative sales target of 7.6 million units in global markets this year. They sold 7.39 million units last year, down 2 percent from a year earlier.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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