Jose Muñoz wears a number of hats at Hyundai.
He is global COO of Hyundai Motor Co. in South Korea and CEO of Hyundai and Genesis Motors North America. In March, Muñoz, 57, was elected to the automaker's board of directors in Seoul. Hyundai has been on an expansion roll in North America under Muñoz, announcing plans last year to invest $5.5 billion in electric vehicle manufacturing capacity near Savannah, Ga., and introducing its first U.S.-made EV at its Montgomery, Ala., plant, the Genesis Electrified GV70.
He spoke this month with Senior Editor Lindsay Chappell. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What do you anticipate the U.S. market will do this year? Are we in for sluggish sales?
A: Everybody thought so. But to be honest, we are cautiously optimistic. The market continues to grow. There is pent-up demand from the past couple of years, and now there is more supply. So it's been good for us. So far we've seen that retail is growing at a good pace, and it looks like many companies are taking advantage of fleet.
We ended the first quarter up by more than 15 percent. So I think that despite the interest rates, etc., consumers who need mobility will end up taking action and continue to buy cars as they did during the pandemic.
Do you see signs of a coming recession?
There may be signs of a recession here or there, but we are not negative. As I said, we're cautiously optimistic. Even during the pandemic, we decided to go on the offensive, and that ended up being good for us. So I don't see a big crisis coming.