LOS ANGELES -- Michael Buckingham has stepped down as president of Hyundai Capital America, the captive finance company for Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America.
Buckingham, 53, who left on April 30, had been in the job since 2002. He was replaced by Sukjoon Won, who had been CFO of the captive since 2007.
"Things are going well. This is a time for me to get some personal things going," Buckingham told Automotive News. "The timing is great. 2010 is a breakout year for Hyundai and Kia and Hyundai Finance."
Buckingham oversaw growth at Hyundai Capital America, the parent company for Hyundai Motor Finance and Kia Motors Finance. Dave Zuchowski, sales chief of Hyundai Motor America, said the captive financed only 10 percent of all retail sales for Hyundai in 2008. The number rose to 20 percent in 2009 and is up to 45 percent this year.
The finance company is buying deeper - lending to consumers well into the 500 credit score range. And about 30 percent of the finance company's transactions will be leases this year, up from 10 percent last year.
"One of the key attributes for our growth has been the relationship with the captive," Zuchowski said.
Hyundai has been plagued with management upheaval in the United States, but dealers are pleased with the appointment of Won.
"From a council perspective, we're not concerned about it," said Scott Fink, chairman of the Hyundai dealer council and owner of Hyundai stores in New Port Richey and Wesley Chapel, Fla.
"We had to get to a point where Hyundai acts more like a true captive, like Ford Motor Credit, to help us sell more cars," Fink said. "A Korean at the top spot is a good thing. It will carry a lot of weight in Seoul."
Before coming to this country, Won was vice president of corporate planning for Hyundai Capital Services and Hyundai Card Co. in South Korea from 2004 to 2007.
"I am very excited by the opportunity to provide more support for Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America here in the United States at this time of growth for both companies," Won said in a statement. "With sales of both companies continuing to expand, Hyundai Capital America will aggressively support this growth in the U.S."