Skip to main content

Kia is a completely different automaker than it was twenty years ago. It’s become innovative and is pushing the auto world in a different direction with its high-quality vehicles that are still incredibly affordable. This is thanks in part to the Kia CEO of the North American Region and his ideas of where Kia could be headed in the future.

Kia and Hyundai have different CEOs

While it’s easy to think that Kia and Hyundai are the same manufacturer, they are not. These two companies are related, however. 

Kia was actually founded in 1944, and then Hyundai followed in 1947. Both remained independent until 1997 when the Asian financial crisis hit. Kia was forced to file for bankruptcy, and Hyundai bought 51% of Kia. It was close there for a while because Ford was also interested in Kia. Hyundai ultimately won the bidding war.

While Hyundai could have easily brought Kia fully under its fold, it was decided to keep them separate. Both became part of the Hyundai Motor Group, which is the parent company. Genesis, the luxury brand for Hyundai, was formed later, and now there are three brands under the Hyundai Motor Group umbrella.

Since Kia and Hyundai are both separate companies, it only makes sense for them to have two separate CEOs. In the case of Hyundai, the Hyundai Media Center reports José Muñoz is the president and global COO of Hyundai Motor Company and the president and CEO of Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America. 

Who is the Kia CEO?

The current CEO and President of Kia Motors North American Region is SeungKyu (Sean) Yoon. He earned his Master of Business Administration from SoGang University, in Seoul, Korea. 

Yoon would spend much of his career working for Kia, starting in 2006. He was an Executive Coordinator in the Kia Sales department from 2006 to 2012. In November 2015, Yoon would get a major promotion to the position of President and CEO of Kia Canada Inc. This would last for three years, and then he was named the President and CEO of Kia Motors North America Region in 2018. He has remained in this role since then.

Kia Media reports that Yoon is a family man, and prefers to spend time away from work with his wife and children. Yoon is also an active golf player, and can often be found on the course.

Under Yoon’s leadership, Kia has really grown. It’s currently racking in the awards for its vehicles like the Carnival, Telluride, and Seltos. The EV6 has also brought in a lot of awards and is so great that it earned recognition from the Red Dot Design Awards, which isn’t even necessarily about cars.

Where does SeungKyu (Sean) Yoon see Kia going in the future?

Like so many automakers, Kia is going green. It has plans to bring even more electric vehicles into its lineup going forward, and if the EV6 is any indication, then this could be huge for Kia.

Along with electric vehicles, Kia may be about to join the small truck division. The Hyundai Santa Cruz has been performing very well, so it only makes sense for Kia to make one as well. Rumor has it the South Korean automaker has two trucks in the works, which has left many Kia fans eager for more information.

The potentially bad news is that we may not see these trucks in the United States. Experts believe the new Kia truck will be reserved for South Korea, at least for the time being. Regardless, Yoon has taken Kia North America to a new level, and it looks like he’s not done yet.


What Was the First Car Kia Ever Made?