Posted by: David Kiley on February 11, 2008
Kia’s Korean management over the weekend appaarently threw some kind of a hissy fit, resulting in the ouster of CEO Len Hunt and marketing chief Ian Beavis. That shake-up came two months after Hunt was elevated to CEO from COO. Hyundai last year, of course, parted ways with its COO, Steve Wilhite, after less than a year on the job. The COO before that was axed shortly after promotion, as well.
Hunt’s and Beavis’s “resignations” were announced at the annual meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Hunt replaced Peter Butterfield, who was fired as CEO of Kia Motors America at a dealer meeting in October 2005.
Talk to most Americans during informal off-the-record moments who have worked for the two Korean car companies and you get a picture of management that is at worst, crazy, and at best, impatient to the point of screwing up any continuity of management.
Kia sales last year were up 3.8% in a tough year. Sales of the Sorento SUV were way down by 28%, and Sedona minivan sales were down by about as much in a very tough year for minivans. But sales of the new Rondo crossover redesigned Sportage SUV made up for the decline in demand for the bigger vehicles.
We frequently hear ambitious sales targets for Hyundai and Kia. I suspect they won’t reach them in the U.S. until Korean managers grow up and put stability ahead of ego and a headstrong and dictatorial culture.