Exclusive: Hyundai Motor's two R&D vice chairmen offer to resign - sources

SEOUL (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Group’s two vice chairmen in charge of research and development (R&D) have offered to resign, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

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R&D president Albert Biermann is likely to be named the new head of the division, two of them added, declining to be named as they are not authorized to speak to media.

Hyundai is battling a plunge in sales, profits and its share price, and the reshuffle would be the latest since it promoted Euisun Chung in September to executive vice chairman, moving him closer to succeeding his octogenarian father as head of South Korea’s second-largest group.

The group has appointed new product strategy, design chiefs and replaced senior executives at its overseas operations, including China and the United States.

The latest shake-up at the group, which includes Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors 000270.KS, could be announced on Wednesday, one of the sources said.

It is “part of a generational change Chung is pushing for”, another person said.

A Hyundai Motor spokesman declined to comment.

The group’s vice chairmen, Yang Woong-chul and Kwon Moon-sik, both aged 64, told senior officials at its R&D center on Tuesday that they would leave the company, the sources said, declining to say why they had offered to resign.

Biermann, a former BMW BMWG.DE performance vehicle development official, adds to a flurry of foreign executives that Chung, 48, has brought in to the company typically dominated by Koreans.

In October, Thomas Schemera, also a former BMW executive, was appointed to lead product planning for autonomous cars, connected and electrified vehicles, while Luc Donckerwolke, a former Bentley design chief, was appointed to oversee design at Hyundai and Kia.

Hyundai Motor’s third-quarter net profit plunged by two-thirds, hit by U.S. recall costs that added to its problems. The automaker was already suffering with weak sales in its key U.S. and Chinese markets.

Hyundai’s share price is down more than 10 percent this quarter, despite a recent rebound driven by a share buyback plan announced on Nov. 30.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, additional reporting by Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Miyoung Kim, Himani Sarkar and Mark Potter