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Google hires ex-Hyundai chief as CEO of its self-driving car division

Published: September 16, 2015 | Mountain View

In a quest to make self-driving cars a business arm, Google has hired an automotive industry veteran John Krafcik as CEO of its SDC project. Krafcik worked for a joint venture of Toyota and GM, then Ford, then he ran Hyundai in the U.S., turning the Korean automaker from an also-ran to a viable contender with the giants of the industry.


Here’s what his LinekdIn profile says,

I’m passionate about transformative ideas that make products and consumer experiences with them better, especially at the intersection of auto and tech.

Krafcik trained as a mechanical engineer and has researched streamlined production models. And his current job is at TrueCar, a pricing website for car purchases and a tech company that works closely with car dealers. That background may signal where Google is heading with its autonomous vehicle arm after taking, with Krafcik’s hire, its biggest step from a far-flung research project to an actual business.

He spent a decade at Hyundai Motor, including five years as president and CEO of the U.S. business. He led Hyundai to record sales and boosted the auto maker’s U.S. market share. After the 2008 financial crisis, he oversaw the team that created an “Assurance Program” that let Americans return cars if they lost a job within a year after purchase, helping the company gain sales in a plunging market. His departure after Hyundai didn’t renew his contract in late 2013 came as a shock to the automotive community because of his success.

Google’s self-driving prototypes are being tested on public roads in urban areas of California and more recently Austin, Texas and Virginia. But there have been few signs so far that Google is close to making the vehicles in enough volume to create a money-making product or service.

Google veteran Claire Hughes Johnson joined the car project in January 2014 to work on potential business models, but left nine months later in part because the project was still too far from becoming a viable business.

Source: WSJ, TechCrunch


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