Hyundai Motor America's vice president for product planning, Michael O'Brien, is leaving the automaker following two stints there over nearly two decades, the company said Friday. O'Brien will depart on Feb. 3 to pursue other interests.
O'Brien was deeply involved in Hyundai's launch of a new crossover lineup over the last two years that allowed the brand post positive sales numbers a down market and position it for long-term growth after struggling for years with a car-heavy mix as U.S. consumers overwhelmingly turned toward crossovers and SUVs.
O'Brien first joined Hyundai in 1987 on the product planning team before leaving for Toyota in 1996, and then returning to the Korean automaker in 2010. He was named an Automotive News All-Star last year for being 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.