Car Culture

Car Culture


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.”

Motorcar Parts of America Inc. announced the appointment of Jamy Rankin to its board of directors -- reflecting the company’s strong commitment to board diversity and solid corporate governance policies.

The Motorcar Parts of America board now consists of 10 directors, nine of whom are independent.

Rankin, 57, most recently served as president and chief executive officer of Ford Component Sales LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company -- overseeing component sales to other original equipment manufacturers and the aftermarket industry.

Rankin serves on the board of Bronner Brothers Inc., one of the largest private African American hair and skin care product producers in the United States. She was a longtime member of the board of visitors at Howard University School of Business.

Rankin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Business Administration degree in marketing and strategy from the University of Chicago.

Polaris announced its Board of Directors appointed Michael Speetzen, Polaris’ executive vice president and chief financial officer, to serve as interim chief executive officer. John Wiehoff, the company’s lead independent director, has been appointed Chair of the Board; and Bob Mack, Polaris’ senior vice president of corporate development & strategy and president of global adjacent markets and boats, has been appointed interim chief financial officer. Each of these appointments will be effective Jan. 1, 2021 and follow the previously announced departure of Chairman and CEO Scott Wine at the end of the year.

“We appreciate Mike and Bob taking on these expanded roles while we progress our CEO search,” Wiehoff said. “In addition to leading the company’s finance organization and expertly managing the liquidity of Polaris during this global pandemic, Mike has helped shape and drive key growth initiatives, including Polaris’ digital transformation and productivity enhancements. Bob’s operational accomplishments and financial experience leading Polaris’ M&A and corporate development strategy are well-suited to advance Polaris’ strong financial foundation.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. announced that Linda Knoll, its chief human resources officer, has elected to retire after nearly three decades of service.

In a distinguished career, honed also in the predecessor companies of FCA and at CNH Industrial, Knoll has served in a number of wide-ranging senior leadership roles since first joining the Fiat Group in 1994.

Linda Knol

Knoll is one of the longest-serving members of the company’s Group Executive Council (GEC), which was formed in 2011 as the highest executive decision-making body within FCA, responsible for reviewing the operating performance of the business, making key strategic decisions and sharing best practices, including the development and deployment of key human resources.

FCA will continue to benefit from Knoll’s counsel and experience until the closing of the merger with Peugeot S.A. (Groupe PSA) and the creation of Stellantis, which is expected to take place by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

After her retirement from the company, Knoll will serve as an adviser to EXOR, FCA’s reference shareholder. She will also remain on the Board of Comau as it prepares to become a publicly listed company.

“Linda has been pivotal in strengthening our global Human Resources operations and played a fundamental role in our success,” said Mike Manley, chief executive officer of FCA. “On behalf of all FCA employees and the many colleagues with whom she has worked so closely, I want to express our warm thanks to Linda for her dedication, leadership and tireless service to our company.”

DealerSockethttps, a SaaS provider to the automotive industry, announced the appointment of Byron McDuffee as chief operating officer (COO). The 22-year automotive industry veteran will oversee DealerSocket’s operations, customer success and support, corporate development, strategy, vendor management, and analytics teams.

“Byron is an accomplished auto industry leader, and we are excited to welcome him to DealerSocket and our executive team,” said DealerSocket CEO Sejal Pietrzak. “Byron has strong experience in leading global teams, creating successful growth strategies, optimizing processes, and driving analytics. He has a dealer-first customer service approach and a keen focus on building a strong company culture and positive employee engagement.”

McDuffee previously served as senior vice president and general manager of automotive services at Equifax, where he led and managed all aspects of the automotive business. McDuffee also served in a variety of leadership roles at CDK Global. 

“I’m excited to join DealerSocket, an organization whose goals are so closely aligned with my experience and passion for this great industry,” said McDuffee, who officially joined DealerSocket in November.

AutoNation Inc. announced that its Board of Directors appointed Norman Jenkins to the AutoNation Board, effective Dec. 14. Jenkins will serve as an independent director.

“We are pleased to have Norman join the AutoNation Board,” said Mike Jackson, AutoNation’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We look forward to the experience and insight that he will bring to the Board.”

Jenkins is president and chief executive officer of Capstone Development, a privately held firm he founded in 2009.  Capstone develops and acquires commercial and multi-family real estate, with significant expertise in public-private partnerships and developing hospitality real estate that is generally affiliated with international lodging brands. Prior to launching Capstone, Jenkins was a senior executive and corporate officer of Marriott International Inc. He currently serves on the board of directors of Duke Realty and New Senior Investment Group, and he is a member of the Washington, D.C. Developer Roundtable. and the Howard University Board of Trustees. Jenkins earned a BA in Accounting from Howard University, an MBA from George Washington University and is a certified public accountant.