Kia Motors Corp., automaker under South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group, has recruited a Chinese national to head its Chinese operation for the first time ever to steer its local business out of slump in the world’s largest auto market.
The Korean company said Monday that it has appointed Li Feng, former executive vice president of Baoneng Auto, as the new chief executive officer of Dongfeng Yueda Kia Motor Co., the joint venture of Korea’s second largest automaker with Dongfeng Motor Corp.
Li is the first non-Korean to head Dongfeng Yueda Kia Motor. He starts work on Sept. 16.
Kia Motors hopes the new director can bring impetus to its operation in China as it struggles against ascension of Chinese brands.
Li served as vice general manager of Beijing Hyundai Motor, a joint venture between China’s BAIC Motor and Kia’s bigger sibling Hyundai Motor Co., and vice president of Chery Automobile Co., a China-based automaker.
The Korean automaker has been suffering badly in China amid intensifying competition from local Chinese companies on top of Beijing`s state-sponsored boycott of Korean brands following Seoul’s decision to install U.S. anti-missile system in 2016. The combined sales of Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor plunged 30 percent in April against a year ago, and they have shown little sign of improvement since then. In May, Kia Motors halted the operation of its Yancheng plant in China, which is produces 140,000 cars annually.
By Lee Jong-hyuk and Cho Jeehyun
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