Bob Cosmai returned to California from the Detroit auto show basking in the glow of growing sales as CEO of Hyundai Motor America. Then suddenly he was out the door.
Even Cosmai, 57, who joined Hyundai from Acura in 1998, said he was surprised that he was replaced last week. Hyundai's U.S. sales rose 8.7 percent to 455,012 units in 2005, the seventh consecutive year of sales growth.
"I am leaving the company in much better shape than it was in seven years ago," said Cosmai, who was promoted to CEO in 2003 after the departure of Finbarr O'Neill to Mitsubishi Motors North America.
"I brought some stability to the organization and credibility with our dealers," he said. "I brought in some good people and good dealers. I am proud of what I have done. But it wouldn't have happened without the support of the parent company."
Ok-Suk (Owen) Koh took Cosmai's place "to streamline the decision-making process, enhance communication and position the company for future growth," the automaker said in a statement.
Hyundai spokesman Chris Hosford said, "Bob could certainly communicate with Hyundai in Korea, but the company felt that Owen was the best and most effective person to do that."
Keith Duckworth now is the top U.S. executive at Hyundai. He was named acting COO of Hyundai Motor America, but will keep his post as deputy president of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama LLC. The search for a permanent COO is under way.