America’s Small Car Apocalypse Claims Hyundai’s U.S. CEO

Former Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski at the 2014 NAIAS. (Photo Credit: AP)
Former Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski at the 2014 NAIAS. (Photo Credit: AP)

Hyundai Motor America has just fired its CEO, apparently because the company wasn’t selling enough cars here. Dave Zuchowski was in the job for just under three years, and is out effective immediately.

Zuchowski was exited “for failing to meet internal sales objectives” based on information from “multiple sources familiar with the situation,” asAutomotive News reports.

Officially, Hyundai has simply said that the company’s General Counsel and Executive Vice President W. Gerald “Jerry” Flannery will be stepping up as Interim President and CEO “effective immediately” in a press release.


“We appreciate Dave’s decade of service to Hyundai, especially his leadership as president and CEO, which has made us a stronger organization,” Flannery said in the release. “I look forward to working closely with our dealers, affiliates, senior management and our talented and hard-working employees across the country to realize Hyundai’s full potential.”

Automotive News called Zuchowski “a 36-year veteran of the auto industry” and detailed that he came to Hyundai from Mazda where he was vice president of sales and field operations, taking the Hyundai CEO job at the beginning of 2014.

We’ve been hearing that Hyundai’s higher-ups aren’t happy with the company’s U.S. sales situation for some time. Since expensive gas prices and the recession of 2008 already seem to be distant memories for many American car buyers, we’re seeing luxury truck and SUV sales soar while compact cars are languishing a little.

2017 Elantra Eco (Photo Credit: Hyundai)
2017 Elantra Eco (Photo Credit: Hyundai)

What do “not enough sales” for Hyundai really look like?

Well two years ago the company called 2013 its “best year ever.” 2014 was the “best year and December ever.” 2015? “Best sales year in [Hyundai’s] history.” This month the company’s reporting “record November sales” and is on pace to sell more cars than the previous year, again, by the end of 2016.


Specifically, here’s how Hyundai’s U.S. sales looked immediately prior to and during Zuchowski’s reign as CEO:

2013: 720,783 sales

2014: 725,718 sales

2015: 761,710 sales

2016 through November: 712,700 sales.

Looks like the trend is going the right way to me. But of course a car company’s situation is a little more complex than the quantity of cars it moves off lots.


As we discussed on Jalopnik in the middle of all this at the beginning of 2015:

“Hyundai essentially built their empire on the back of a purposefully weak won (South Korean’s currency), exporting cheap cars and bringing in sweet, sweet dollars and euros. This allowed them to heavily discount and gave them a ton of money to invest in their products which allowed them to skip about a generation of development. The yen was also stronger to the dollar, allowing them to outflank the competition.

Now it’s coming to bite them in the ass...”

Even though car sales were moving upward, money was not. As Bloomberg assessed in 2015, Hyundai’s profits were well shy of expectations and it appears that the trend has not improved much since then.


Hyundai must have decided a regime change could be the answer. Interm CEO Flannery will be steering the ship until a new CEO can be named, and that person will eventually have to figure out how to make Americans buy the Genesis luxury car and Hyundai’s upcoming alternative-fuel brand “Ioniq.”

Or maybe they should just try putting an ornate interior in a basic body-on-frame utility vehicle. That seems to work pretty well for a few other American automakers.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles

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Is the Hyundai Tuscon a worthwhile vehicle? Thinking about buying in that segment, a Tuscon or a Subaru Outback or something.