Hatami’s new employer has had struggles of its own. But its U.S. sales are beginning to emerge from the cloud of the diesel emissions scandal, and Volkswagen is preparing a new crop of vehicles that could broaden its appeal in the U.S., including the Atlas three-row crossover, which targets primarily U.S. families and is built in Tennessee.
Hyundai sought to reassure its U.S. dealers last week after Hatami’s departure, even as it canceled its planned regional grass-roots meetings with them.
“With the departure of Derrick Hatami, I believe my time is best served remaining at headquarters and making sure we don’t lose focus on the retail momentum we built in May and hitting our sales goals for the remainder of the year,” Interim CEO Jerry Flannery wrote in a letter to dealers explaining the cancellation, a copy of which Automotive News obtained.
“While there likely will be disappointment in the cancellation of the meetings, rest assured that open communications between HQ and the dealers is a top priority for me,” the letter continued. “I’ve spoken with the Dealer Council leadership already to express my commitment to openness and transparency.”
Flannery is Hyundai’s interim CEO until a permanent successor to Zuchowski is found.
A search for Hatami’s successor will begin immediately. In the interim, Sam Brnovich, Hyundai’s southern region general manager, will take on additional duties to “support the overall sales organization,” Hyundai said.
Hyundai division’s U.S. sales plunged 18 percent to 58,259 vehicles in May. For the year, sales are down 7.5 percent to 283,547. The brand’s U.S. light-vehicle sales have dropped six straight months year over year. Those numbers exclude the new Genesis luxury division, which has sold 8,306 vehicles this year.
Hatami, who was selected as an Automotive News Rising Star last year, joined Hyundai in 2005 and worked his way up to general manager of the western region. He left in January 2014 to become Nissan’s sales chief, a role he held until September 2015, when he returned to Hyundai to replace Bob Pradzinski as vice president of sales.
In a statement to Automotive News, Hyundai said: “Derrick served the company well during his time as head of sales and we wish him nothing but success.”