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Hyundai Motor America's 1998 brand/product ad campaign, initially due early next year, is on the back burner and may be changed.

The South Korean car importer will start searching soon for an executive with a "new vision for the company," said Chris Hosford, director of communications.

The new hire is expected to fill the shoes of both Jim Hossack, VP-product planning, and Maurice Bowen, marketing director, who were laid off last week along with 29 other Hyundai staffers.

About eight other top executives have left the company in the past year. They include Doug Mazza, the chief operating officer who quit in March, shortly after the arrival of a new president from South Korea.


Hyundai will rely on the new executive for input on its ad strategy, Mr. Hosford said. He added it would be unwise for the car marketer to devise a strategy before the new person arrives.

"I'm not saying our strategy will radically change," he noted.

Hyundai's current strategy is a positioning as a caring company selling quality products to consumers interested in styling and value.

Financial problems of the marketer's South Korean parent were a factor in the layoffs, but the primary reason was to reduce costs. Hyundai Motor America will report an operating loss in 1997. Its parent, Hyundai Motor Co., Seoul, earlier this year reported a 45% drop in net income for the first half of '97.

Bates USA, Irvine, Calif., has handled Hyundai since the marketer started selling cars in the U.S. in 1986.

"Bates continues to be our agency," Mr. Hosford said.

Hyundai spent $88 million in advertising in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting. For the first half of 1997, Hyundai spent $58 million in advertising.

Bates strengthened its Hyundai account staff in September by hiring Tony Taylor, the Volvo account director at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York. He was named the No. 2 account person under Tim Hart.

Hyundai's U.S. sales are stuck on a plateau of 108,000 cars annually. Its peak sales year was 1988, with 264,000 units sold. The major mission of the new executive will be to move sales upward.

"The range of cars we sell has broadened, so we should be able to sell more cars," Mr. Hosford said.

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