Steve Wilhite, COO of Hyundai Motor America, expected the carmaker to sell more than 555,000 vehicles in American in 2007. It's unlikely that's going to happen -- the number now is 510,000 -- and it's thought missing this goal is why Wilhite announced his resignation today.

Wilhite arrived at Hyundai just last year, moving from Nissan where he was SVP of marketing. Hyundai is just coming off a record breaking August, but it's still down by about 700 units from last year's sales through the first eight months. Altogether in 2006, it sold 455,520 cars. Hyundai's national dealer and sales meeting is happening this week, which makes the timing of Wilhite's resignation all the more serious. Theories about a personality clash between Wilhite and his South Korean bosses was also behind the departure.

It is also speculated that Wilhite will move to Ford to fill the role of chief marketing officer. If he did take that position -- at the company where he started his career -- he would replace Francisco Codina, who just retired as Ford's North American Marketing Sales and Service head. Ford head Alan Mulally has been under pressure to fill the CMO role as soon as possible.

[Source: Auto News, sub req'd]


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