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Hyundai Fires Its American CEO for Not Keeping the Good Times Rolling: Report

Dave Zuckowski, Hyundai

There’s room at the top at Hyundai Motor America after the sudden firing of CEO David Zuchowski, insider sources claim.

According to Automotive News, Zuchowski, who joined the company as sales chief in 2007 before taking the top job two years ago, didn’t achieve internal sales targets. As such, he’s reportedly out the door, replaced by an interim leader.

It might be hard finding someone to replicate Hyundai’s sizzling post-recession sales performance.

Sources close to the matter claim the automaker’s U.S. dealer body was informed of the firing last night, with company employees notified this morning. Until the automaker finds a replacement, executive vice president Jerry Flannery will take the helm of Hyundai’s American operations.

The automaker roared back from the recession with huge sales gains, but the rebound eventually dwindled. According to TTAC sales guru Timothy Cain, Hyundai’s U.S. sales increased 24 percent in 2010, 20 percent in 2011, and 9 percent in 2012. Sales then slowed, with 3 percent growth reported in 2013, 1 percent in 2014, and 5 percent last year. The past 11 months shows a 1.3 percent sales bump in a flat market.

Not bad for a challenging marketplace, but not good enough for the powers that be at Hyundai.

“Growth has stalled,” said Cain. “But that’s partly the nature of rapid growth. You can’t keep growing that way. And they had production limitations on crossovers that is improving.”

He adds that Hyundai’s incentive spending hovers around the industry average.

The automaker’s fuel-efficient small cars were a hit during a prolonged period of high gas prices, but things have changed. Passengers cars represent an ever-shrinking minority of new vehicle sales as pump prices remain low. And, while Hyundai’s crossover lineup continues to enjoy healthy sales increases, its small car lineup has taken a big hit.

Clearly, Zuchowski got the message, albeit too late. Last month, he announced two new utility models — a subcompact (due in 2018) and sub-subcompact crossover — as well as a revamp of existing models. The compact Tucson will grow slightly, while the Santa Fe Sport is due to grow in size and take on a more rugged look. The larger Santa Fe will grow into an eight-passenger model and ditch its name.

While this could indeed put wind in Hyundai’s sails, it seems the move comes too late to save Zuchowski’s job.

[Image: Hyundai Motor America]

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