Len Hunt Is Loving Kia

November 29, 2005
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Len Hunt is glad to get a crack at running Kia Motors. The new COO of the Korean carmaker’s U.S. unit had been tapped to run worldwide marketing for Bentley at Volkswagen. “I looked at my schedule of one posh glad-handing event after another, many of them on the weekends, and I thought…I’m too young for that kind of life,” said Hunt during a recent chat in New York.

Hunt was presiding over a frustrating time at Volkswagen. Before being named to run Bentley marketing, a job he never formally took over, he had run the VW brand in the U.S. for about 18 months as sales and profits fell. To be fair, that had more to do with VW’s quality woes, lack of correct product, and a weak dollar. Still, Hunt did manage to direct a less than inspiring ad launch of the new Jetta and Passat.

At Kia, Hunt doesn’t plan to do too much tinkering with the master plan. “I’m not changing the blueprint, because the strategy is right,” says Hunt. His biggest surprise, he says? That the Spectra beat Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic on J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey.

He does plan to talk to his new Korean bosses about juicing up some versions of Kia’s products. A turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Spectra5 is on his wish list. At VW, Hunt got the German automaker to the SEMA show for the first time with R-GT packages for the Jetta and Touareg. He also thinks Kia should have a pickup, and that such a vehicle probably makes more sense for Kia than Hyundai. —Jim Burt

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