LOS ANGELES -- Kia Motors America Inc. today promoted executive Len Hunt to CEO.
Hunt, 52, joined the company in October 2005 as COO after the firing of Peter Butterfield. Butterfield, the CEO since 2001, was replaced by B.G. Lee, who now has returned to Korea. Kia did not disclose Lees new role.
This decision reflects a solid vote of confidence in the leadership of Len Hunt, E.S. Chung, CEO of Kia Motors Corp. in Korea said in a statement. He has put together and empowered a team of seasoned professionals to help Kia flexibly meet the changing U.S. market situation, and he is the right choice to lead the company going forward.
Chung attended the annual Kia dealer meeting in Las Vegas last week. Dealers were told that a new seven-seat SUV called the Borrego will go on sale in late spring or early summer as a 2009 model. Dealers also were told that the Sorento SUV will be produced at the companys new plant in Georgia.
Kia Motors America is the U.S. sales, marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corp., of Seoul.
Since Hunt came on board, Kias U.S. sales have grown at a steady pace. Last year the automaker sold 294,302 cars and trucks, up 6.7 percent from 275,851 vehicles in 2005. And through October of this year, Kia has sold 257,228 vehicles in the U.S., up 6.3 percent over the same 10 months of 2006.
Hunts promotion comes amid recent management turbulence at both Kia and at sister division Hyundai Motor America.
Butterfield was fired at Kias 2005 dealer meeting. And, at Hyundai, COO Steve Wilhite quit in September, after only one year on the job. Wilhites departure came just weeks before Hyundais annual dealer meeting in San Diego.
Hunt, an Englishman, led both the Volkswagen and Audi units in the United States. He came to Kia after VW tapped him to go to England to oversee Bentley marketing worldwide, a position he at first accepted, then declined.