YONGIN, South Korea — Hyundai Mobis Co. may be Hyundai Motor Co.'s biggest auto parts supplier, but that didn't help it win early inroads with Hyundai in a critical field.
Rival South Korean supplier Mando Corp. beat Mobis in supplying the automaker with a driver-assistance system that bundles several semi-autonomous technologies that are all the rage today. The Hyundai Motor Group even awarded Mando a prize for the technology in 2016.
Mobis, by contrast, is just this year delivering its first driver-assist system to Hyundai.
Stung by the slow start, Hyundai Mobis now wants to leapfrog from fast follower to leader.
To kick the effort into higher gear, Mobis CEO Lim Young-deuk has for the first time tapped a non-Korean to head the company's rapidly expanding Driver Assistance Systems division responsible for autonomous driving. It is part of an urgent campaign to infuse the unit with more expertise and money.
Gregory Baratoff was recruited from Germany's Continental AG and became the new vice president for driver-assist technology in July 2017. The American engineer is a computer vision specialist who began his career at Daimler AG doing augmented reality, then moved to Siemens VDO to work on cameras for driving-assist systems. Continental bought Siemens VDO in 2007.
Baratoff's first priority is to quickly ramp up spending in autonomous driving technology.
A soaring investment is needed to play catch-up in the race for Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving systems, Baratoff said. If Mobis keeps investing at its current levels, leaders such as Continental or even Mando will always be in the lead.
"To put it simply, by 2021 we want to catch up, and by 2025 we want to lead," the soft-spoken Baratoff said in an interview at Mobis' global r&d center outside Seoul. "We may have high growth rates, but we're starting lower and maybe later than others."