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New ‘driving force’ behind Kia brand

Confidence builder: Kia’s new chief operating officer Damien Meredith says his aim is to grow the business ‘in every direction’.

Hyundai sales chief heads to Kia as brand looks to future with ‘renewed confidence’

Kia logo19 May 2014


A KEY architect of Hyundai’s strong sales growth in Australia, Damien Meredith, has joined Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) as chief operating officer, filling the slot created when Tony Barlow left the company at the end of February.

Reporting to KMAu president and CEO SH (Sang-Hyun) Cho, who came onboard in January, Mr Meredith has spent the past nine years working for Kia’s South Korean sister brand (and rival) and has more than three decades’ senior management experience in the industry.

At Hyundai Motor Co Australia (HMCA), Mr Meredith had served as director of sales since January 2009, when former sales and marketing chief Kevin McCann unexpectedly left the company. Prior to that, Mr Meredith was HMCA’s general manager of sales and operations.

He previously spent three years as sales general manager at Volkswagen and 20 years at Honda, climbing as high as general manager of sales and marketing at the Japanese brand before resigning from the position in June 2001 in a surprise double-barrelled exit with his boss at the time, sales and marketing director Tony Devers (now Suzuki Australia general manager).

At Hyundai, Mr Meredith has overseen five years of consecutive sales growth in Australia, with last year’s six per cent improvement over 2012 taking its annual volume past 97,000 units.

Hyundai is now firmly entrenched as one of the top-five brands in Australia – it finished in fourth position overall last year – and last month outsold leading full-import brand Mazda to be in third place behind Toyota and Holden.

Mr Meredith described his latest career move as “a wonderful opportunity”.

“Kia has been one of the most exciting global brands for some years now and I believe there is enormous potential in the Australian market,” he said.

“It is my aim to make the most of that potential and grow the business in every direction.” The Kia brand has grown substantially in Australia in recent years on the back of vastly improved new models, but has not yet become a permanent fixture in the top-10 sales charts.

Its sales were down 3.2 per cent last year and slipped below 30,000 units.

After the first four months of trading in 2014 the brand is up 1.9 per cent.

Kia’s previously stated goal, reiterated earlier this year, was to secure a five per cent share of the Australian new-vehicle market by 2015, which equates to more 55,000 sales.

Welcoming Mr Meredith’s appointment this week, SH Cho said: “We are extremely fortunate to be joined by a man with Damien’s extensive experience in the motor industry.

“We will now look to the future with a renewed confidence.”

Tony Barlow left Kia earlier this year to become managing director of Al Ghassan Motors in Saudi Arabia, a high-end distributor and retailer for brands such as Bentley, Bugatti, McLaren, Lamborghini and Lotus.

HMCA has advised that a replacement for Mr Meredith is still to be lined up, and that its recruitment process will include both internal and external candidates.

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