2019 ALL STAR | PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
Vice president, product, corporate and digital planning,
Hyundai North America
Hyundai is on a product tear that is remaking its lineup to compete primarily as a crossover brand while elevating some vehicles to near-luxury status and looking out for niches where sedans and even hot hatchbacks make sense.
And at the heart of that profound remake has been Michael O’Brien, vice president of product, corporate and digital planning, who is on his second tour of duty with Hyundai. His responsibilities include guiding strategic development of the Korean brand’s product lineup and tailoring the vehicles for U.S. consumers.
O’Brien, 63, has been a driving force behind the brand’s dramatic move to crossovers, such as the subcompact Kona and the plush three-row Palisade — completely new models that have been fast hits in their respective segments.
O’Brien is busy planning for two launches: the new subcompact Venue crossover that will fight for entry-level buyers and the boldly redesigned Sonata midsize sedan.
O’Brien is a collector of automobiles and motorcycles and a pilot of two personal airplanes. He held key roles in Hyundai’s product planning team in 1987-96, then worked at Toyota Motor Sales for 14 years before returning to Hyundai in 2010.