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Leadership change

New Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun sets sights on future mobility

Oct 14, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Chung Euisun, executive vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Co., has assumed the chairmanship of Hyundai Motor Group, officially confirming his ascension to the leadership throne of the world’s fifth-largest automaker.

Heralding the South Korean automotive group’s first generational leadership change in two decades, Hyundai promoted Chung, 49, to the group’s top post, replacing his father, Chung Mong-koo, who’s been hospitalized due to illness since July. The older Chung, 82, who had led the automaker since 2000, was made honorary chairman.

Approving his promotion at a Hyundai board meeting on Oct. 14, the group said it expects the new leader to spearhead its transformation from an automaker into a future mobility solutions provider.

“We will develop the world's most innovative and reliable self-driving technology to deliver a new mobile experience for our customers,” Chung Euisun said in his first message as chairman.

“Hyundai Motor will provide a new level of life experience for mankind by realizing the future of our imagination more quickly through robotics, urban air mobility and smart cities.”

Chung Euisun takes helm at South Korea's largest automotive group Hyundai Motor. Here he unveils the company's Green New Deal at the Korean New Deal Initiative launch presided over by President Moon Jae-in on July 14


CHUNG MONG-KOO CREDITED WITH LIFTING HYUNDAI’S STATUS


The appointment makes him the latest third-generation leader to take over one of South Korea’s family-led conglomerates, which have been credited with lifting the war-stricken country out of poverty since the 1950s.

His father, Chung Mong-koo, took the helm of the group in 2000 and transformed Hyundai Motor and sister firm Kia Motors Corp., once ridiculed for their poor vehicle quality, into the world’s fifth-largest automaker.

The junior Chung has already been acting as the de facto leader of Hyundai Motor Group, which has the country's two biggest carmakers and top auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis Co.

The senior Chung resigned from his Hyundai Motor board seat earlier this year after stepping back from frontline operations. Chung Euisun has represented Hyundai at major events in Korea and abroad since he took the second-highest job at the group in 2018. 

Industry watchers say the generational leadership change at Hyundai will bring about much-needed reforms.

Thursday’s board decision comes as the country’s top automaker is suffering from dwindling sales amid unprecedented coronavirus-hit challenges, including its plant shutdowns in Korea and the US.

Projected bird's-eye view of Hyundai Motor's new innovation center in Singapore

FUTURE MOBILITY TOP PRIORITY

The incoming chairman has pushed hard for new growth businesses focusing on electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells and future mobility platforms since he became executive vice chairman.

Under his leadership, the automotive group is expected to expedite investments in EVs and hydrogen cars to take the lead in the global future mobility industry.

Hyundai Motor said on Tuesday it has begun building an innovation lab in Singapore as part of its efforts to explore new mobility business opportunities throughout Asia

In July, Chung Euisun pledged that the group will take 10% of the global EV market by 2025 with sales of more than 1 million electric cars. During the Consumer Electric Show in January, the group also unveiled its urban air mobility (UAM) initiative, as well as showcasing its S-A1 air vehicle concept.

Last year the new leader said that Hyundai will shift its business portfolio breakdown so automobiles account for half of its sales, followed by UAM with 30% and robotics at 20%.

In April of this year, Hyundai Motor said it aims to launch the world’s first commercial robotaxi, or Level 4 autonomous driving vehicle with no human involvement, through Motional Inc., a joint venture with self-driving car tech developer Aptiv

CHALLENGES FOR INCOMING LEADER

Born in Seoul in 1970, Chung Euisun majored in business administration at Korea University. He also holds an MBA from the University of San Francisco.

Of the third-generation members of Korean conglomerates, Chung Euisun has often been cited as a promising next leader who can manage the auto group. Chung is credited with steering the turnaround of the once financially weak Kia Motors by hiring former Audi designer Peter Schreyer. As vice chairman of Hyundai Motor, he launched the luxury brand Genesis in 2015.

Chung Euisun does not have a major stake in Hyundai Mobis, an affiliate seen as key to control the group. He is expected to renew the push for ownership restructuring to consolidate his influence after a previous attempt in 2018 met shareholder opposition.

He is also expected to revamp the group’s seniority-oriented corporate culture to allow quick business decisions.

Write to Byung-uk Do and Il-Gue Kim at dodo@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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