Car Culture

Car Culture

Mercedes-Benz Vans USA announced the appointment of Nicolette Lambrechts to the position of Vice President and Managing Director Sales and Marketing for Mercedes-Benz Vans USA, effective May 1. In this role, she will lead all van business operations including the sales, marketing along with service and parts for Mercedes-Benz Vans in the United States. Lambrechts succeeds Robert Veit who will take over the position as Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK.

Lambrechts joined the MBUSA Vans team in October 2019 as the general manager for Mercedes-Benz Vans Sales. She first joined Mercedes-Benz South Africa in 2001 as a graduate trainee.

DigniFi, an automotive financing platform, announced that Kevin Yu has been named Chief Technology Officer. Reporting to CEO Richard Counihan from Seattle, Yu will be responsible for growing DigniFi’s engineering organization, continuously improving product quality, and delivering innovations for customers and partners. Initially, Yu will focus on re-platforming DigniFi to improve the scalability and dynamism of Expressway, a revolving credit line that helps consumers afford auto repairs, upgrades, accessories, and trade-ins.

Yu joins DigniFi with more than 20 years of experience leading engineering teams at high-growth startups in the Seattle area. He most recently served as CTO of JAXJOX, a fitness technology company, and as co-founder and CTO of Markedly, which helps B2B startups optimize product-market fit. 

He began his career with Microsoft, where he worked for 12 years. 

Yu holds four degrees: an MBA from University of Washington, a master’s in engineering from University of Maryland College Park, a master’s in management science from China’s Peking University, and a bachelor’s in computer science from Beijing Institute of Technology.

Mike Albert Fleet Solutions has promoted Nate Shadoin to director, sales & fleet electrification. The new position was created to help fleet clients achieve their sustainability goals and improve their ROI with electric vehicles.

“We’re excited that EVs and fleet electrification initiatives have become top of mind for businesses and government agencies who have carbon footprint reduction initiatives and want a lower total cost of ownership,” said Shadoin. “We’re proud to lead in this growing segment of the industry and help our clients realize the benefits of a zero-emission fleet.”

Shadoin joined Mike Albert Fleet Solutions in 2015.

“Nate is an unshaken leader in his belief in electric vehicles and the long-term value they can deliver to its owners and our environment,” says Jeff Hart, president at Mike Albert. “Through experience and continuous research, he has acquired extensive knowledge of the vehicles, batteries and charging solutions, as well as the monetization of incentives, grants and tax credits. He is a true champion of electrification.”

Shadoin, a lifelong sports car, racing, and auto industry enthusiast, attended Butler University in Indianapolis, the hometown of the Indianapolis 500. He’s now based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Unite Digital LLC, a digital marketing company that focuses on OEM certified dealer digital programs, announced the expansion of its Unite CONNECT platform and the hiring of automotive digital retailing veterans, Dave Zuchowski and James Casazza, as chief strategy officer and chief innovation officer, respectively.

Unite CONNECT is a flexible and customizable lead management and data insights platform built to incorporate the latest advances in technology and intelligent automation. It was built to handle the ways consumers expect to connect with dealerships today, expanding beyond email and phone response, to include text and messaging platforms in one unified interface.

"Unite CONNECT helps OEs and dealerships attract and identify more customers, customize their interactions and unite their data across tiers," said Stacey Coopes, founder and CEO of Unite Digital. "For example, with our platform, OEs capture and personalize communication to 10 times more customers than older technology in use by most certified digital programs today."

Unite CONNECT is being used by Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) in its MiDIGITALSOLUTIONS certified digital program, a comprehensive suite of digital marketing services and solutions managed by Unite Digital for the growing U.S. network of Mitsubishi Motors dealer partners.

The Michigan Independent Automobile Dealers Association is hosting a golf outing this summer at Cherry Creek Golf Course in Shelby Township, Mich.

The Aug. 23 outing replaces the association’s 2020 dinner dance. At the golf outing, the association will award its state Quality Dealer of the Year award. The association will also draw the winners of its annual raffle, with a $5,000 first prize, $1,000 for second prize and $500 for third.

The MIADA is looking for sponsorships for this event. Those interested should contact the Michigan IADA.


Foundation Direct, a new technology and consulting company serving automotive marketers, announced Michael Heidner as their new vice president of strategy and business development. Heidner joins Foundation Direct from Google, where he led Automotive Research.

“Remaining ahead of industry trends by maintaining a deep understanding of auto shoppers’ changing behaviors — especially in light of the last year of change — is crucial to our success as a company, and our dealers’ success winning customers online,” said co-founder Andrew Diffenderfer. “He has analyzed the consumer journey data of hundreds of thousands of auto shoppers across hundreds of digital and traditional touchpoints.”

Foundation Direct’s CEO, Peter Leto added, “While you might not recognize his name, you’ve seen his work — represented on keynote stages across events like Digital Dealer, NADA, J.D. Power Auto Revolution, and more. We are excited to add him to our team as we continue to evolve our technology and the media strategies we use to connect dealers to buyers.”

Heidner holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in business analytics from the University of Michigan.

W. Gerald (Jerry) Flannery, executive vice president and chief legal officer at Hyundai Motor America, will retire on March 1, following 34 successful years at the company. Flannery’s distinguished career has been an integral part of Hyundai’s U.S. business success story and continued evolution.

“Since nearly the start of Hyundai selling vehicles in the U.S., Jerry has been a trusted counselor and passionate advocate of the brand and our customers,” said José Muñoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America. “Jerry’s contributions to Hyundai are endless. We wouldn’t be the company we are today without his vision, leadership and integrity.”

Flannery joined Hyundai in 1987 as senior corporate counsel just two years after Hyundai established operations in the U.S. Flannery also served as the vice president, general counsel and was elevated to chief legal officer in 2003. He is widely recognized as an authority on automotive product liability, regulatory and safety matters and established Hyundai’s U.S. safety office in 2016. Flannery also stepped in as interim president and CEO through most of 2017.

“It’s been the honor of my career to help Hyundai build and grow its U.S. business,” said Flannery.

Flannery serves as a member of the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) Foundation Board of Directors and was a founding member of the Hyundai Cancer Initiative at CHOC. Hyundai will immediately commence a search to fill this critical leadership position.

Lightning eMotors, a provider of commercial electric vehicles for fleets, announced Teresa Covington as its new chief financial officer. Covington will join Lightning’s senior leadership team and lead the company’s finance and investor relations teams as it transitions to being a public company as a result of its announced business combination with GigCapital3, Inc.

“Teresa has more than 25 years of hands-on senior financial leadership in public and private engineering-driven manufacturing companies, ranging from small venture-backed startups to large Fortune 500 companies,” said Tim Reeser, chief executive officer, Lightning eMotors. “Her experience as a leader, as a public company CFO, and her passion for technology and experience in operations will be instrumental in helping us to grow our business.”

Covington earned her master’s in business administration from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California.

Kia has revealed its new corporate logo and global brand slogan that signify the automaker’s bold transformation and all-new brand purpose. The introduction of the new logo represents Kia’s ambitions to establish a leadership position in the future mobility industry by revamping nearly all facets of its business.

The Kia Forte, KiA's #1 selling car

The logo is a symbol of Kia’s new brand purpose and the values it promises to offer customers through future products and services, and the experiences these enable. Kia seals its brand promise by developing the new logo to resemble a handwritten signature. The rhythmical, unbroken line of the logo conveys Kia’s commitment to bringing moments of inspiration, while its symmetry demonstrates confidence. The rising gestures of the logo embody Kia’s rising ambitions for the brand, and, more importantly, what it offers customers.

“Kia’s new logo represents the company’s commitment to becoming an icon for change and innovation,” said Ho Sung Song, Kia’s President and CEO. “The automotive industry is experiencing a period of rapid transformation, and Kia is proactively shaping and adapting to these changes. Our new logo represents our desire to inspire customers as their mobility needs evolve, and for our employees to rise to the challenges we face in a fast-changing industry.”

The new logo was unveiled during a record-breaking pyrotechnic display in the skies above Incheon, Korea. The event saw 303 pyrodrones launching hundreds of fireworks in a synchronized artistic display, igniting and celebrating Kia’s new beginning. This set a new Guinness World Record for “Most unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) launching fireworks simultaneously.”


Black Book, a provider of automotive vehicle pricing and analytical services, announces the appointment of Rene Abdalah to the newly created position of senior vice president, business development. In this role, Abdalah will work closely with vehicle manufacturers, captive finance companies, lenders and other automotive-related companies in the United States and Canada to deliver industry-leading data and analytical solutions.

“With the addition of Rene and his broad automotive and automotive finance background, along with his keen understanding of collateral, risk modeling, and residual forecasting,” said Jared Kalfus, Black Book executive vice president, “we affirm our commitment to our customer base to deliver the most comprehensive data sets, created and powered by the industry’s leading team.”

Abdalah joins Black Book from GM Financial, where he served as vice president of economic risk and residual management. Prior to GM, Abdalah spent 16 years leading RVI Group’s passenger vehicle and analytical services business units.

“I’ve gotten to know the team at Black Book very well and am impressed by their passion for customers and our industry,” said Abdalah.  “Their advancements in data, analytics and market analysis are best in class and I’m honored to join this iconic institution.”

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