Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

The chief executive of Hyundai’s U.S. unit, who for five years navigated the company through the recession to huge growth, will step down next week, the company said in an abrupt announcement.

John Krafcik has completed his contract and will be succeeded by the vice president of sales, David Zuchowski.

“It’s been a sincere privilege and honor to lead Hyundai Motor America over the past five years, and I am confident that with Dave’s succession, our brand will continue to expand and thrive for years to come,” Krafcik, 52, said in a statement.

Krafcik, who has been with the company since 2004, did not indicate why he was leaving. A spokesman for Hyundai would not say whether Krafcik was leaving voluntarily.

Still, Krafcik is one of the longest-lasting executives with a Korean car company, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with

“The Korean automakers have gotten a reputation of having a revolving door of executives and John Krafcik defied that trend,” she said. “He will land somewhere. He’s very well-respected in the industry.”

Im Tak Uk, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor Co., said in a statement that Krafcik’s “forward-looking perspective, commitment to quality and design, and pursuit of innovative new product offerings have elevated the Hyundai brand and introduced our vehicles to a new generation of satisfied and loyal customers.”

Since taking the reins of Hyundai Motor America in 2008, Krafcik has been credited with leading Hyundai to large increases in market share and sales volume. This year, the company is projected to sell more than 700,000 vehicles in the United States, a 75 percent jump from 400,000 in 2008, according to Kelley Blue Book.

“That’s how significant the change has been under John Krafcik,” said Eric Ibara, director of residual values for Kelley.

In the last year, however, Hyundai has lost some steam. Hyundai and its sister company Kia Motors were hurt when they were forced to acknowledge in late 2012 that they had overstated the fuel economy of almost one-third of the vehicles they sold in the previous two years.

The company, as part of an estimated $210 million settlement, said Monday that it would allow about 600,000 current and former owners and lessees of cars from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 model years to choose among four ways to receive compensation for increased fuel costs associated with the incorrect fuel economy ratings, including a single lump payment.