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Exclusive: Shock departure of top Hyundai execs

Driven: John Kett said the wide-ranging restructure will allow HMCA “to move forward in a highly competitive automotive market with greater ambition, efficiency and effectiveness”.

Sales, customer experience, network development heads gone after HMCA restructure

7 Feb 2020

HYUNDAI Motor Co Australia (HMCA) has implemented a comprehensive restructure of its business that sees the shock departure of some of its most senior executives, including sales operations director Giles Belcher, sales operations general manager Gary Knight, customer experience director Oliver Mann and general manager of network development Tony Hutton.


Senior manager of customer experience Paul Jenzen has also left the company.


In a communique to dealers seen by GoAuto, HMCA’s recently appointed chief operating officer John Kett said the restructure was designed to “allow our business to move forward in a highly competitive automotive market with greater ambition, efficiency and effectiveness”.


“We truly understand the frustrations you feel with our business, so rest assured, these changes will improve our practices and allow us to work more closely with you to drive better results,” Mr Kett said.


“Dealer network relations is a heartfelt passion of both myself and our CEO Mr Jun Heo and we will deliver on this promise.


“This is an unsettling and challenging time for our company, so please bear with us as we work through this period of change.


“But it is also an amazing opportunity. On Monday (February 3), I encouraged our staff to view it in this way – a chance to change our business and work more closely together to drive future results.


“This will lead to an improved working relationship with you and the broader network, and more understanding of your needs by us.”


Mr Kett said his aim was to flatten the organisational structure across all divisions, with each regional general manager in the sales department now reporting directly to him.


The customer experience (CX) side of the business has been similarly “rethought”, with a flatter structure that now sees general manager of aftersales Peter Neal report directly to Mr Kett, as will Nick Vasilevski who starts a three-month secondment as manager of network development.


As GoAuto has previously reported, Mr Vasilevski is a former senior manager of network business and profitability but was tapped to lead a newly created CX innovation and business planning department early last year when Mr Hutton moved from head of customer experience and aftersales to network development.


In the email to dealers, Mr Kett said: “At the very heart of the changes is the empowerment of our people. We will strive to empower our great team by flattening the organisational structure across all divisions.


“This will help bring out the highest potential in our leadership and allow team members at all levels to better initiate great ideas and change the business in a real and positive way.”


Of the sales overhaul that sees each regional general manager now report directly to him, Mr Kett said “nobody knows their market and their network better than these guys, so giving the regional leaders more autonomy will drive a better focus on working practices and results.”


Former Queensland-based northern regional sales manager Michael Torrisi has started a three-month secondment at HMCA’s Sydney headquarters to assist Mr Kett “with redefining our sales initiatives and internal processes”.


“His recent experience on the ‘front line’ as a regional sales manager will lead to: more effective, earlier communication between HMCA and the network; a streamlining of our sales initiatives with a focus on consistency and better planning; greater integration with marketing to drive enquiry; and an improved ability to both measure performance and react quickly with countermeasures when needed,” Mr Kett said.


The CX division that was championed by Mr Mann has been disassembled, with Mr Kett saying key responsibilities will be “distributed back to those functions engaged in specific customer touchpoints”.


The customer relationship management (CRM) function will also now report into marketing, which remains the responsibility of marketing director Bill Thomas.


As the market downturn continues and competition among the leading brands becomes increasingly intense, Hyundai has ambitions to depose Mazda and become the undisputed number-two automotive brand in Australia, before attempting to erode the dominant position of long-time market leader Toyota.


Its position will no doubt improve next year when the South Korean car-maker finally begins production of a mid-size pick-up that will target the nation’s top-selling vehicle, the Toyota HiLux.


Hyundai had only one model among the top 10 last year, the i30 small car in fourth, while the brand overall suffered an 8.6 per cent sales decline – slightly deeper than the overall industry’s 7.8 per cent deficit – with 86,104 sales. This gave it an 8.1 per cent market share.


Mazda sales took a 12.3 per cent hit to finish at 97,619 units, for a 9.2 per cent share, while Toyota slipped 5.2 per cent to end the year on 205,766 sales – with a significantly increased share of 19.4 per cent. 


As reported, Mr Kett is a highly experienced industry executive who has worked at the highest levels in Australia and throughout Asia, most notably with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


At the time of his appointment to HMCA last August, Mr Kett said “Hyundai’s ambition, both in Australia and globally, is unrivalled – not only for its pace in product development, but for its determined movement into autonomy, hydrogen, electric vehicles, mobility services and connectivity.”

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