Hyundai, Kia promote younger execs, with eye on succession planning

SEOUL (Reuters) — Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors promoted younger executives Friday in moves analysts said would help smooth an eventual leadership succession at the family-owned conglomerate.

Hyundai Motor said it elevated chief marketing officer Cho Won-hong to executive vice president. Cho, 50, was handpicked by the automaker’ s heir apparent Chung Eui-sun, people familiar with the matter said.

Its domestic public relations chief Kong Young-woon, who too is 50, was also elevated to the post, making the duo the second-youngest executive vice presidents currently at Hyundai.

At Kia, Kim Gyun, a 52-year-old at the strategic planning division, was also promoted to executive vice president.

“When you look at this year’s management reshuffle at Korean firms, you have to focus on executive vice presidents, not CEOs, because they are the ones who will support scions when they take over,” said Chung Sun-sup, head of local research firm Chaebul.com.

“The promotion of young executives should pave the way for the future of the junior Chung,” he said.

Both Hyundai and Kia did not elaborate on the reasons for the promotion of the executives.

While Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo, 76, has given no signal that he plans to step down soon, he is expected to eventually hand over reins to his only son and vice chairman, Eui-sun, who is 44.

Cho, who earned an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and served as head of consultancy Monitor Group’s Korean office, started his stint at Hyundai in 2010.

“Automakers are injecting younger blood into the organization to cope with a paradigm shift and lead innovations,” said Lee Hang-koo, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.

In Europe, BMW said early this month that Harald Krueger, a 49-year old production chief, will succeed Norbert Reithofer as CEO of the luxury automaker in May of next year.

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