July 25, 2018 / 8:00 AM / a month ago

South Korea's Hyundai Motor replaces China head amid weak recovery

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) on Wednesday said it has replaced the head of its operation in China after less than one year, to accelerate recovery in its biggest market.

FILE PHOTO - The logo of Hyundai Motor is seen on wall at a event of Hyundai Motor Co's new Accent in Mexico City, Mexico August 2, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

The automaker is recovering only slowly from the impact of a diplomatic row between the Seoul and Beijing governments, while a dearth of sport utility vehicles hit its sales hard last year.

Hyundai named Yoon Mong-hyun, head of its Turkey operations, as president of its Chinese joint venture with BAIC Motor Corp Ltd (1958.HK). The venture’s current head, Tao Hung Tan, who only started the role in September, will support the Chinese business from the automaker’s Seoul headquarters, the company said in a statement.

Affiliate Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS) also named Jin Byung-jin as head of its Chinese joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd (0489.HK).

“These appointments are to reinforce our competitiveness, which has been showing signs of recovery in the Chinese auto market,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Hyundai’s Chinese retail sales climbed 4 percent while Kia’s rose 1.3 percent in January-June compared with the same period a year earlier, said Samsung Securities analyst Esther Yim in a client report earlier this month.

Yim cut her target price for Hyundai stock, saying it will take more than two years for the automaker to return its Chinese factory utilisation rate to 80 percent from at 58 percent at present.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo JinEditing by Christopher Cushing

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