Hyundai Marketing Chief Shannon Departs

Search Underway for Successor at Automaker

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Steve Shannon
Steve Shannon

Hyundai Motor America's marketing chief Steve Shannon left the company on Thursday to "pursue other interests." Persons close to Hyundai told Automotive News that his marketing plan had been questioned in recent months amid cooling U.S. sales.

"Steve has achieved a number of key accomplishments in his leadership of the company's marketing efforts over the last three years," Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski said in a statement.

A company spokesman said that Hyundai has begun a search for a replacement but has yet to select a successor. Messages sent to Mr. Shannon over social networking sites were not immediately returned.

Hyundai is the country's 88th largest advertiser, according to Ad Age's DataCenter, spending $474 million on advertising in 2013.

Mr. Shannon arrived at Hyundai in April 2011 after General Motors hired Hyundai's two prior marketing chiefs, Joel Ewanick and Chris Perry, in 2010. Both have since left GM.

Mr. Shannon, then 52, had spent more than 25 years at GM, where his most recent position had been executive director of marketing for Cadillac. His time in Detroit also included stints with Saturn, Oldsmobile, Buick, Saab and Hummer.

Upon hiring Mr. Shannon, Hyundai's then-CEO John Krafcik called him "a perfect fit," pointing to his work on the launch of the Saturn brand. "He's a marketing innovator with strong convictions about serving the customer," Mr. Krafcik said then. "At the same time, he's personable, enthusiastic and professional."

Mr. Krafcik was replaced by Mr. Zuchowski on Jan. 1 of this year.

During his time at Hyundai, Mr. Shannon built an on-the-ground marketing campaign around college football, with gameday activations for 25 of the most popular teams. He also oversaw this year's selection of actor Paul Rudd as the new voice of Hyundai, replacing the brand's longtime pitchman, actor Jeff Bridges.

Mr. Shannon's arrival at Hyundai came at a time of swift growth for the Korean brand in the U.S. market. That growth has since slowed, partly because the company's factories are running at full capacity and haven't been able to keep pace with demand. Hyundai's U.S. sales are up 1% this year in a market that has risen 6%.

Mr. Shannon was well-liked by colleagues and dealers, but took heat during the sales slowdown -- particularly after the launch of the redesigned 2015 Sonata -- which failed to provide the expected boost. Sales for the nameplate rose 5% through Oct. 31, but fell 22% last month as the overall segment gained 3%. Total U.S. sales bumped up 6%.

Gabe Nelson is a writer for Automotive News; Automotive News staff contributed to this report.

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