The name Hyundai translates into English as "modernity." And now, the South Korean automaker has a new chairman who embraces that forward-looking spirit of change and improvement, just as it grapples with an age of industry upheaval.
Even before being tapped last week as the new leader of Hyundai Motor Group, Euisun Chung was a key mover in the push to modernize the company amid growing pressures for electrification, autonomous driving, connectivity, big data and artificial intelligence.
If there was any doubt about his vision for a bold new future, the new boss, who turned 50 on Sunday, Oct. 18, cited flying cars, robots and smart cities as new areas of focus in his inaugural remarks. Indeed, a new mobility R&D center that broke ground in Singapore just last week will have a landing pad for urban air mobility vehicles and be a hub of artificial intelligence innovation.
"The industry is being required to continuously change and innovate to create a new paradigm and ecosystem different from yesterday," Chung said in his speech, titled "Start of a New Chapter."
"We also need to face new challenges and prepare for the future."
Chung, scion of the motor group's founding family, has had a relatively low profile on the global stage until now. But behind the scenes, he has quietly transformed the company as his father, Mong-Koo Chung, stepped back in recent years from daily operations at Hyundai, Kia and Genesis.
The elder Chung, 82, began running the family conglomerate in 1996 and cemented his grip on the auto brands in 2000, when Hyundai and Kia were combined into Hyundai Motor Group.
He was hospitalized in July for intestinal inflammation, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. Although the condition was not deemed serious, it spurred rumors about failing health.
Last week's handoff, which made Mong-Koo Chung honorary chairman, formalized the first transition of power in more than two decades. But Euisun's ascent also highlights continuity.
Like Akio Toyoda at Japanese rival Toyota, Euisun is the grandson of the company's founder. The enterprise was started by Juyung Chung, a former rice merchant turned mechanic who established Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Engineering & Construction after World War II, setting in motion one of Korea's most important conglomerates. Mong-Koo was one of the founder's eight sons. Euisun underscored that lineage while accepting his promotion.
"By inheriting the sublime achievements and entrepreneurial spirit of our two former luminaries, we will together contribute to the national economy and further promote the happiness of humanity," he said in his inauguration speech.