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Hyundai Motor hires longtime BMW executive in performance-car push


Hyundai Motor Corp. and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. hired Albert Biermann, chief engineer for BMW's M performance cars and light trucks, to develop performance models and improve ride and handling.
As executive vice president, Biermann will become the South Korean automakers' second-highest foreign executive after design chief Peter Schreyer, formerly of Audi AG.
"We will have him in charge of developing high-performing vehicles and leading [research efforts on] performance, safety, durability, noise oscillation and system development," Hyundai said in a statement released Monday in Seoul.
Biermann's appointment would come as Hyundai-Kia, known more for affordable passenger cars, is trying to raise its brand image at home and abroad.
"Hyundai's push to performance cars aims at going upmarket and garnering higher margins," said Lee Hang-koo, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.
Biermann, 57, had been with BMW for over 30 years. He will be in charge of testing and developing performance cars at a research center in Seoul starting in April, Hyundai-Kia said.
He will also advise on product strategy and marketing for the European market. His appointment "will pave the way for Hyundai-Kia to go head to head with European premium carmakers," the Korean companies said.
Hyundai and Kia derive 60 percent of their sales primarily from selling large and mid-sized cars in their home market, where they are being increasingly pressured by a growing number of imports from makers including BMW.
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