Hyundai Motor America says John Krafcik, vice president-product planning and strategic development, has been named acting president and chief executive officer.

Krafcik, perhaps the most visible face of Hyundai in America and well-regarded by the automotive media, joined Hyundai in April 2004 from Ford Motor Co., where he was chief engineer responsible for Ford’s F-150 platform.

“I am honored by the confidence Hyundai Motor Co. (Ltd.) has shown in me and very excited to help improve Hyundai’s position in the U.S. market and help Hyundai dealers with a strong strategic vision for the marketing and sales of our vehicles,” Krafcik says.

“While this is a very difficult time in the auto industry, Hyundai’s extraordinary products and exceptional value offer us great opportunities now and in the future.”

Jong Eun Kim, who had filled the president and CEO roles, has returned to Hyundai in South Korea.

HMA says it will search for a replacement for Krafcik.

HMA has had difficulty keeping American executives in the chief role. Krafcik follows both Robert Cosmai and Steve Wilhite, neither of whom lasted two years. They were dismissed in the last three years for failing to meet Hyundai’s U.S. sales targets.

HMA spokesman Chris Hosford says the selection of Krafcik to fill the CEO role is due to his having “a vision for what the company is and what it can become. And I think that is probably one of the things that led him to the position.”