LOS ANGELES — It's a new era at Hyundai Motor America.
Last week's appointment of Dave Zuchowski as CEO puts the Korean brand's U.S. arm in the hands of a 33-year auto industry veteran with deep experience on the retail side of the business, at a time in which sales growth is slowing.
Zuchowski, who came to Hyundai as U.S. sales chief in 2007, was previously vice president of sales and field operations at Mazda North American Operations. He began his career in 1980 at Ford Motor Co., where he held numerous executive positions in regional management, product marketing, merchandising and field operations at the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury divisions.
Zuchowski, 55, succeeds John Krafcik, 52, an engineering and product-development specialist and big thinker who steered the Hyundai brand to record U.S. sales and market share over his five-year tenure as CEO. Zuchowski begins the new post Jan. 1.
A Hyundai spokesman declined to say whether Krafcik is retiring or whether he plans to take another job elsewhere. Hyundai said Krafcik's contract with Hyundai expires Dec. 31. It's unclear whether it was Hyundai or Krafcik who chose not to renew it. Krafcik didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment Friday.
In an interview Friday, Zuchowski credited Krafcik for leading the company through its growth spurt and said he hopes to build on the company's recent successes.
"John was terrific for Hyundai … and those are big shoes for me to fill," Zuchowski said. "We just want to refine things and build and grow."
Zuchowski said Hyundai will post another record sales year in 2013 with volume of around 720,000 vehicles, and expects further growth in 2014. Key to that will be launching redesigned versions of the Sonata mid-sized sedan and Genesis premium sedan in the first half of 2014, he said.
"It's all about product in our business, and we've got some great stories in 2014," Zuchowski said. "My No. 1 priority is making sure we hit the ball out of the park with these product launches."