Kia’s New COO Exits, After Just One Week

One week after starting a new position as chief operating officer and executive vice president at Kia Motors America, Bill Peffer has resigned “in conjunction with his pursuit of a new opportunity in the automotive industry,” the company said Friday.

Peffer, 50, had been promoted from vice president of sales operations in mid-December after a strong sales year at Kia. He formally started the COO job on Jan. 1. The operations position is the No. 2 spot in Kia’s U.S. hierarchy behind Sean Yoon, president, and CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors North America.

Kia said late Friday it has not yet appointed a successor to Peffer after his abrupt resignation tendered Thursday. Kia did not offer any details on the automotive job that Peffer is pursuing.

“Bill Peffer’s contributions helped Kia’s U.S. sales outperform the industry and we are grateful for his service to the company. We sincerely wish him well in the next chapter of his career,” said Yoon in the statement.

Peffer joined Kia in July 2017 as vice president of sales. Kia notched its best U.S. sales in 2019 and was the fastest-growing mass-market brand in the U.S. at the time, Kia said. Last year, Kia sales fell 4.8 percent, besting the U.S. industry’s performance in general, which experienced a 14 percent decline.

Prior to his arrival at Kia in July 2017 to steer sales, Peffer had been president and COO of the New England dealership group Balise Motor Sales of West Springfield, Mass.

Before joining Balise, he had a 10-month stint as Cadillac’s head of sales, and a period as CEO of Nissan Australia. He has also worked for Ford Motor Co.

In June 2020, Kia Motors America announced that unit president Michael Cole was leaving the brand and taking a position as CEO for Hyundai Europe. Kia and Hyundai are sibling operations of parent company Hyundai Motor Group. At the time of Cole’s departure, Kia said the president post would be assumed by Yoon. Peffer effectively succeeded Cole, but with a different title.

Kia also announced a related promotion in mid-December along with Peffer.

Russell Wager was promoted to vice president of marketing. Wager, 55, has been director of marketing operations at Kia Motors America since July 2019. Previously, he was vice president of marketing at Mazda North American Operations.

Source: Kia’s new COO exits — after just one week