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Hyundai Motor hires US aerospace expert for UAM business drive

Ben Diachun, chief technology officer of Hyundai Motor Group's UAM division (Hyundai Motor Group)
Ben Diachun, chief technology officer of Hyundai Motor Group's UAM division (Hyundai Motor Group)
Hyundai Motor Group said Wednesday that it has hired a high-profile aerospace professional from the United States in line with its continued effort to promote urban air mobility, or UAM, as a future growth engine.

The South Korean auto group has appointed Ben Diachun, former CEO of the California-based aerospace startup Opener, as the chief technology officer for the UAM division.

“His years of experience in developing innovative aerospace vehicles will greatly contribute to our business goal to develop and commercialize UAM vehicles,” said Shin Jae-won, Hyundai Motor President in charge of the UAM division.

Diachun will report directly to Shin, who is said to have taken the lead in recruiting the US official. Shin himself is also an aeronautics expert who previously worked at NASA before joining Hyundai Motor in 2019 to lead the UAM business.

Opener began in 2011 in Ontario, Canada as a startup specializing in electric-powered personal air vehicles. It later changed its name to Opener and relocated to California’s Silicon Valley.

After his years with Opener, Diachun also worked as CEO at aerospace developer Scaled Composites.

Throughout his career, Diachun played a pivotal role in developing 16 new aerospace vehicles, including SpaceShipOne, the first commercial manned spaceship, and BlackFly, an electric personal air vehicle.

Hyundai Motor aims to roll out its UAM vehicle to market by 2028, in line with its vision to grow beyond the conventional automaker business to become a comprehensive future mobility operator.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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