Hyundai Motor Company appoints an American as vice president image

Hyundai Motor Company has promoted its global public relation chief to vice president, a rare advancement for a non-Korean executive.

American Frank Ahrens, 48, joined Hyundai as director of global public relations in 2010. His appointment to vice president of global corporate communications took effect October 11, said Kim Young Kee, general manager for talent recruitment at Hyundai. Ahrens will oversee a global PR team of 13 people.

Non-Korean vice presidents are very rare at Hyundai’s South Korea operations, with Ahrens being the only foreigner working at that level at the head office in Seoul. The carmaker has, however, non-Korean vice presidents and COOs at its overseas affiliates.
The move is part of Hyundai’s shift toward greater globalization and is part of an emerging trend of Asian carmakers internationalizing public relations.

As Asian automakers get most of their sales and profits overseas, they are increasingly hiring foreign talent. This is especially true in the area of public relations, where foreigners often bring a more international perspective.

Other Asian carmakers, such as Nissan, have had non-Japanese public relations chief officers. Mazda appointed a Canadian to lead its global communications this year.