TOKYO -- Hyundai Motor has named Yong-woo (William) Lee as the new global head of its Genesis premium brand. Lee, who is Hyundai's executive vice president and advisor for the Americas, will replace Manfred Fitzgerald, who will leave Genesis after nearly four years at the helm.
Lee, a Hyundai veteran with experience in the U.S. and Brazil, steps into the role at a critical time for Genesis as it builds out its U.S. sales network and embarks on the important rollout of the brand's first crossovers, must-have additions to its nascent three-sedan lineup.
Genesis may expand its reach by launching in Europe in a couple of years' time, Hyundai Chief Marketing Officer Cho Won Hong told Automotive News Europe during a recent interview in Milan.
"William Lee's U.S. market experience will be particularly beneficial and makes him the perfect match for this position," Hyundai Motor said in a press release announcing the management shuffle. "North America is an imperative market for the Genesis brand."
Fitzgerald, whose last day is Oct 31, is departing to pursue new opportunities, Hyundai said.
Fitzgerald, who has led Genesis since January 2016, oversaw the ramp up of Genesis as an independent brand and the controversial move to establish a standalone retail network in the U.S. Completing that spinoff, which had been expected happen in 2022 or thereafter, may now fall to the new leadership.
Lee, 60, starts his new job as Genesis boss on Nov. 1. Hyundai will not appoint a successor in his current role as regional executive advisor for the Americas.
Before that, Lee was the first CEO of Hyundai Motor North America, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor Brazil and senior vice president of the company's overseas sales division in Seoul.
Lee also led the creation of ad agency Innocean USA in 2009 and ran overseas sales for auto parts supplier Hyundai Mobis Parts, which is headquartered in San Francisco.
Hyundai said Lee will work closely with recently appointed Genesis North America CEO Mark Del Rosso. Outside the U.S. and the home market of South Korea, Genesis plans to expand into new regions including Canada, Russia, the Middle East and Australia.