Hyundai Motor Group Chief Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun is expected to return home over the weekend after a weeklong trip to the US to persuade officials to allow exemptions from auto tariffs, industry insiders said Friday.
According to Hyundai Motor, Chung flew to the US earlier this week to meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and officials to convey the automaker’s concerns and economic contributions, amid US President Donald Trump’s push to slap 25 percent tariffs on imported automobiles.
This was Chung’s first official schedule a few days into his new post as chief vice chairman overseeing group affairs, upon his promotion on Aug. 14.
Chung had been asked to join South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s three-day summit in North Korea, along with other business leaders. But due to his trip to the US, Hyundai Motor Group Vice Chairman Kim Yong-hwan went to the North instead.
In his meetings with Ross, Georgia’s US Sen. Johnny Isakson and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Chung requested measures mutually beneficial for the automaker and the US, citing the revised KORUS FTA along with Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors’ economic contributions there, according to Hyundai.
Hyundai Motor runs a factory in Alabama and employs roughly 3,000 workers, while Kia Motors’ assembly plant is located in Georgia.
The auto tariffs the US is pushing to impose based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 have deepened the automakers’ woes, as their customers are highly likely to be affected by the 25 percent price hike.
“Ranging from US auto tariffs and reviving sales in China to corporate restructuring plans at home, there is a lot of pressure on Chung. Hyundai has to continue selling new models such as the Santa Fe SUV in the US to boost sales, and to do so it needs to avoid tariffs,” said an industry expert who wished to remain anonymous.
“Including China’s new energy vehicles policy that takes effect next year, Hyundai also needs to think about how to deal with changes in the market.”
The Chinese government will be implementing a new energy vehicles policy mandating eco-friendly car sales to make up 10 percent of automakers’ sales.
In Korea, the auto group has formed a task force to put together a new corporate restructuring plan.
A week before Chung’s promotion, activist investor Elliott Management released three letters it had sent to Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and Hyundai Mobis containing details on how the auto group should revamp its corporate structure.
By Kim Bo-gyung (email@example.com