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Hyundai R&D Chief Resigns

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On: Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 11:01AM | By: Tim Healey

Hyundai R&D Chief Resigns

Hyundai's research and development chief, Lee Hyun-soon, has resigned for personal reasons. The resignation is effective March 15. As vice chairman of research and development, Hyun-soon was responsible for Hyundai's first in-house engine during his time with the company. The 60-year-old led the development of the Alpha engine in 1991, which replaced Mitsubishi-sourced power-plants in Hyundai vehicles.

Yang Woong-chul, 57, will assume Hyun-soon's duties. Woong-chul is currently the president of Hyundai Motor Research and Development Center in Namyang, South Korea. He will keep his current title.

Hyun-soon presided over research and development during a time in which Hyundai and its corporate partner, Kia, experienced tremendous growth. Not only have recent Hyundai products drawn rave reviews from the automotive press, but the company overcame quality issues and now often scores well on quality surveys.

As part of his tenure, Hyun-soon pushed Hyundai to develop advanced powertrains. He helped the company embrace fuel-injection and hybrid systems.

Hyun-soon's career with Hyundai began in 1984, after he left the General Motors Research Institute. He earned his promotion to vice chairman in 2009.

Woong-chul has experience with gasoline-electric hybrids and fuel cells. He'll need it, as Hyundai continues to work on those kinds of powertrains in order to compete with rival automakers.

The recent success of cars like the Sonata mid-size sedan, the 2011 Elantra compact sedan, as well as the development of a hybrid version of the Sonata, show that Hyundai has been working hard on improving its product over the last five to ten years or so. The company, which once had a reputation as the seller of low-quality econo-boxes, is now one of the hottest companies in the industry. Hyun-soon has been a big part of that, and replacing him could be a challenge, no matter how good a job Woong-chul does.

Still, given his background in alternative-fuel vehicles, Woong-chul could be positioned to keep Hyundai rolling. With gas prices rising and vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf leading the way for electric, plug-in hybrid, and extended-range electric vehicles, Hyundai will need more than just conventional hybrids to keep up.

But, with company veteran replacing another, Hyundai should be in good hands.


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