COSTA MESA, Calif. — John Krafcik, the president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, is stepping down next week after five years at the helm, the company announced Friday. He will be replaced by David Zuchowski, the current executive vice president of sales who joined the company in February 2007.
When Krafcik became CEO of American operations in 2008, the South Korean automaker's cars were ugly and often broke down. During his tenure, he pushed through quality, style and fuel efficiency improvements to help drive up sales. Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and Elantra compacts became top sellers and multiple models garnered the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick designation.
Hyundai had already started to change before Krafcik arrived, offering a 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty with its cars. But the transformation from joke to juggernaut accelerated under his watch. Krafcik didn't just focus on the engine but how people used their cars as personal living spaces.
“Finding room for people’s stuff is one of our priority focal points,” he told The Associated Press in a 2012 interview. “Let me give you a great example. Cup holders and bottle holders. This is a great success for Hyundai, and it took some time to convince the engineers that this is what we needed to do (because) cup holders cost money.”
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