SEOUL, Feb 11 (Reuters) - South Korean automaker Ssangyong Motor, owned by India’s Mahindra and Mahindra , has nominated Choi Johng-sik, a former sales head at Hyundai Motor, as its next chief executive, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
As Ssangyong reported losses mushroomed last year on a slump in sales in Russia, its key export market, the 65-year-old Choi, will be given responsibility for steering the loss-making automaker’s long-planned entry into the now-buoyant U.S. market. Choi has served as Ssangyong’s sales chief since 2010.
Underlining the scale of the task that awaits Choi, Ssangyong said its operating loss widened last year to 76.9 billion won ($70 million) from 8.9 billion won in 2013. To offset the weakness in Russia, Choi will also be charged with boosting business in China and other countries.
Choi’s appointment is subject to approval from Ssangyong’s board and shareholders, due in March. He will succeed Lee Yoo-il, who led South Korea’s fourth-biggest automaker for six years though a court-led restructuring process after the global financial crisis hit its sales.
Lee will take up a newly created position as vice chairman, advising the automaker, the Ssangyong spokesman said. Last month he said it will take two or three years to bring the automaker back into the black.
Choi worked at Hyundai Motor for nearly 30 years until 2005. He served as president at China’s Hawtai Motor and then at the Chinese unit of Korean piano maker Young Chang before coming to Ssangyong in 2010. Choi was not available for comments.
Ssangyong, founded almost 60 years ago, was under the control of China’s SAIC Motor Corp Ltd in the 2005-2009 period before entering court receivership in 2009. In 2010, Mahindra, India’s top utility maker, bought the automaker for 522.5 billion won. ($1 = 1,099.6000 won) (Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)