Highlights of the year’s major events affecting-Kia Automotive Group:
• In early January,-Kia Automotive Group Chairman Chung Mon-koo praises his employees for turning “a crisis into an opportunity,” as combined 2009 global sales of the two auto makers hit a record 4.6 million units. Chung says Hyundai-Kia is planning a 17% increase in 2010 global sales to 5.4 million vehicles.
• The 4.6L Tau V-8 in the ’10 Hyundai Genesis sedan makes Ward’s 10 Best Engines list for the second year in a row.
• At the North American International Auto Show, Hyundai announces the hybrid-electric variant of the Sonata midsize sedan will feature a 6-speed step-gear transmission, instead of a continuously variable transmission. The auto maker promises the result will be a more affordable HEV.
• Taking a swipe at rival’s troubles, Hyundai says in early February that since 2008 it has been equipping all of its passenger vehicles with “Smart Pedal Logic.” Hyundai officials say the feature eliminates the possibility of runaway engines, such as those that caused massive recalls at Toyota.
• Joel Ewanick, Hyundai marketing whiz and author of numerous innovative Hyundai marketing plans, is lured away byNorth America. Before his bags are unpacked at Nissan, recruits the 49-year old to replace Susan Docherty as vice president-U.S. marketing.
• Chris Perry, a friend and protégé of Ewanick, takes over the top marketing job at Hyundai in the U.S. when Ewanick leaves, but in August follows him to GM, where he is named the new chief of Chevrolet marketing following a management shakeup.
• Kia Motors America shows off its Ray plug-in HEV concept at the Chicago Auto Show. Based on Kia’s compact Forte platform, the Ray can travel 50 miles (80 km) per charge on electric power, the auto maker says.
• The Kia Sportage cross/utility vehicle is unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March.
• Kia Motors Slovakia announces plans to invest $E100 million ($136 million) for a second engine plant at Teplicka Nad Vahom, near the city of Zilina.
• At the New York auto show in April, Hyundai announces its Equus flagship will start in the mid-$50,000 range, tens of thousands less than premium-car competitors, when it goes on sale in the U.S. later in the year. Among its amenities: an Apple iPad that fills in for a standard owner’ manual and allows an Equus buyer to schedule service.
• In June, Hyundai celebrates the launch of i20 hatchback production at Hyundai Assan Otomotiv Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S. in Izmit, Turkey. The plant is slated to produce 80,000 units annually, including 70,000 for export.
• In August, Kia signs a tentative wage agreement with its labor union in South Korea, avoiding a company-wide strike by hourly workers for the first time in two decades.
• At the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, MI, Hyundai Motor America President and CEO John Krafcik says the auto maker’s U.S. fleet will achieve 50 mpg (4.7 L/100 km) by 2025.
• In early September, Kia names Hyoung-keun “Hank” Lee to the position of vice chairman, replacing Vice Chairman Chung Sung-eun, who resigned in an act of atonement for a spate of recalls of Kia vehicles around the world to repair faulty wiring harnesses.
• Also in September, Kia announces it is killing its Borrego SUV and Rondo multipurpose vehicle in the U.S. because of slow sales.
• Hyundai starts test production of its new car plant in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 21. The auto maker aims to boost car sales in the country 27% to 75,000 in 2010.
• Hyundai announces a deal to build a third plant in China with annual capacity of 400,000 units. When completed in 2012, it will increase Hyundai’s manufacturing capability in China to 1 million units.
• In October, Hyundai takes another step into the European market with the introduction of the ix20 at the Paris auto show. The car is a B-segment multipurpose vehicle sharing a platform with sister-brand Kia’s Venga.