A Rare Bird: Hyundai Promotes American to Vice President of Public Relations

By Trevor Dorchies | October 18, 2012
In a stunning move, Hyundai has announced that it has promoted Frank Ahrens, 48, the automaker's global public relations chief, to the role of vice president of global corporate communications. This is a surprising move by Hyundai because of the rarity of a non-Korean in the automaker's domestic operations. Ahrens first joined Hyundai back in 2010 as director of global public relations. With his new position, Ahrens will be one of only a few foreigners on Hyundai's executive board. Hyundai also has vice presidents and COOs at other overseas operations but Ahrens will be the only non-Korean at that level in the automaker's headquarters in Seoul. Ahrens' promotion is another example of Hyundai wanting to globalize its brand. This move can also pave the way for non-Koreans to break into public relations with other Asian companies as well.
With the addition of Ahrens, Hyundai can continue to get a better understanding of how to cater to international markets that consumes the product at a record rate. Hyundai has continued to recruit foreign talent because of this reason and is especially true in the public relations department. Having an international PR staff can help Hyundai, as well as other automakers gain a better understanding of the markets it serves. While Ahrens promotion within Hyundai is notable, he's not the first foreigner to infiltrate international automaker executive boards. Nissan recently promoted a non-Japanese public relations head while Mazda appointed a Canadian to oversee its global communications department. Toyota, another Japanese automaker, has also appointed a non-Japanese as its CEO earlier this year. Promoting a non-Korean at Hyundai's main headquarters executive branch goes against what the automaker normally does by sending Koreans overseas to work. By reversing the normal trend, Hyundai will be able to get a better understanding of different cultures and how they go about buying vehicles. The promotion went into effect back on October 11 and Ahrens will be responsible for a team of 13 people. Source: Automotive News (subscription required)