Culture Clash May Have Led to Weber Exit

Last week’s resignation of Dave Weber, vp, marketing at Hyundai Motor America, is the latest fallout in a clash of cultures between the U.S. division and its Korean parent that could threaten the company’s success going forward, sources said.

Weber was stifled by supervision from Seoul, South Korea-based Hyundai Motor Co., sources said. “Weber was used to making million-dollar deals on handshakes. Here, he couldn’t make a 50-buck decision,” said one executive.

Weber said his departure was due to “a difference of opinion on strategies and approaches to doing business.”

A desire by executives in Seoul to consolidate global marketing and wield more regional control may have also played a role in Hyundai’s dismissal of Irvine, Calif.-based Bates USA West, which held the account since Hyundai’s 1986 U.S. entry. Hyundai awarded the combined $400 million-plus Hyundai/Kia media business to Aegis Group’s Carat in January, following a review. Hyundai creative went to The Richards Group, Dallas, in April, also after a review.

The media search was launched without the knowledge of the U.S. marketing team, sources said. After Carat won Hyundai’s media account, HMC unilaterally—without Fountain Valley, Calif.-based HMA’s input—created the World Marketing Group, also based in Fountain Valley, to oversee that business. Finbarr O’Neill, HMA CEO, said, “I don’t think the speculation that Koreans are ‘taking over’ is well founded, and our marketing strategy is not being developed in Seoul.

“The big change we are facing and adapted to is the unbundling [of media and creative],” he added. “We didn’t have a media person on staff before, and we just added one a couple of weeks ago. If the Koreans were taking over, why would I hire a media person?”