Hyundai Motor hires BMW executive in performance car push

SEOUL, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp have hired Albert Biermann, chief engineer for BMW’s M performance cars, to develop performance cars 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. His appointment would come as Hyundai-Kia, known more for affordable passenger cars, is trying to raise its brand image.

“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 centre in Seoul starting April, Hyundai-Kia said in statement on Monday.

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 pair said.

Hyundai-Kia earn 60 percent of 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. (Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin)