Hyundai Motor Co. spokesman Frank Ahrens said that on March 15, 2011, the company’s vice chairman of R&D, Lee Hyun-soon resigned for personal reasons. The 57-year-old Yang Woong-chul, who is the current president of the Hyundai Motor Research and Development Center in Namyang, South Korea, will assume the 60-year-old Lee’s duties.
Yang, who has been with Hyundai since 2004, will keep his current title and there will be no new vice chairman. Lee had developed Hyundai’s first in-house engine.
In 1991, Lee led the development of Hyundai's Alpha engine, the carmaker's first proprietary internal combustion engine after years of sourcing power plants from Mitsubishi. He also guided Hyundai through a growth period, in which the Hyundai-Kia group became one of the world's largest automakers.
Under Lee’s guidance, Hyundai dealt with quality issues only to become a leader in global quality surveys in recent years. Lee, who is a cult hero among engineering students in Korea, led Hyundai toward advanced drivetrains like fuel-injected engines and hybrid systems.
In 1996, Lee oversaw construction of the Namyang tech center, filling in a swampy wasteland to create an R&D unit that oversees 10,000 engineers worldwide. Lee, who joined Hyundai in 1984 and became vice chairman in 2009, began his career at the General Motors Research Institute.