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Hyundai replaces CEO in US to revitalize sales

– Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, is counting on new leadership at its U.S. unit to help the company revive market-share gains.

In naming Executive Vice President David Zuchowski as the next CEO of its U.S. operations from Jan. 1, Hyundai turned to one of its top salesmen to battle Toyota Motor Corp. to Ford Motor Co. in the country.

He’ll replace John Krafcik, 52, who in his five-year tenure as U.S. chief oversaw Hyundai gain the most market share among major automakers until late 2012, when it began ceding back some of those gains.

Zuchowski will face the challenge of reversing Hyundai’s sales slump in its second-biggest market and improving its safety ratings. Hyundai is counting on the revamped Genesis, which won the North American Car of the Year award in 2009, and an overhaul of the Sonata midsize sedan, the carmaker’s bread-and-butter model, to boost sales in the U.S.

“Dave is known to be a very active and results-oriented leader who puts strong emphasis on the company’s sales operations,” Shin Chung Kwan, an analyst at KB Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul, said by phone. “Hyundai’s aggressive but logical management change comes after Hyundai’s disappointing IIHS test results and is in time to take steps to have its new products boost sales in the U.S. next year.”

Zuchowski, who joined Hyundai in February 2007, has been in charge of sales, field operations and dealer relations, the company said in its Dec. 27 statement.

He has been in the auto industry for 33 years, beginning his career at Ford, and was responsible for sales at Mazda Motor Corp.’s U.S. unit prior to joining Seoul-based Hyundai.