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Hyundai promotes non-Korean as VP in charge of public relations


Hyundai promotes non-Korean as VP in charge of public relations

Hyundai Motor Co. has promoted its global public relations chief to vice president -- a rare-advancement for a non-Korean executive at the carmaker’s global headquarters.

Frank Ahrens, 48, an American, joined Hyundai as director of global public relations in 2010. His appointment to vice president of global corporate communications took effect Oct. 11, said Kim Young Kee, general manager for talent recruitment at Hyundai.

Non-Korean vice presidents are a rarity at Hyundai’s domestic operations. Though the carmaker has non-Korean vice presidents and COOs at overseas affiliates, Ahrens is the only foreigner working at that level at the head office in Seoul.

The move is part of a shift toward greater globalization at South Korea’s biggest automaker. It speaks also to an emerging trend of Asian carmakers internationalizing public relations.

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

Nissan Motor Co. in neighboring Japan has long had a non-Japanese public relations chief. And Mazda Motor Corp. appointed a Canadian to lead its global communications this year.

Hyundai has a long history of sending Koreans to work overseas, but it is now bringing overseas employees to work at Hyundai domestic operations for extended stints, to exchange ideas, culture and best practices.

The company said Ahrens will oversee a global PR team of 13 people.

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