A second senior United States Hyundai executive has left to join Mitsubishi Motors. Finbarr O'Neill, co-chairman and CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America, who moved from Hyundai just a few weeks ago, this week announced the hiring of Michael Tocci as senior vice president, sales, distribution and fleet, MMNA sales division.

Tocci will oversee US sales operations, dealer development, distribution, logistics, fleet and remarketing.

Tocci has 27 years' industry experience, having worked for Ford and, most recently, Hyundai Motor America. From 1991 to 2003, Tocci was general manager of Hyundai's eastern region, overseeing a 13-state area that generated sales volume of more than 120,000 units in 2002 at 186 dealer locations. Before that, Tocci worked in a variety of sales, marketing, parts and operations positions at Hyundai's southern region in Atlanta, Georgia, and at the company headquarters in Fountain Valley, California.

Early this month, Japan's Mitsubishi Motors Corporation replaced North American CEO Pierre Gagnon with O'Neill, who helped rival Hyundai increase sales in the United States by 400% since 1998.

Soon after appointment, O'Neill reportedly said Mitsubishi would target car buyers by showcasing its models and relying less on sales to fleets, such as rental car companies, to shore up sales volumes.

By the time of Gagnon's departure, Mitsubishi's US 2003 sales had slumped 22%, partly because of poor quality ratings, while efforts to drum up business by offering easier credit and increasing low-margin sales to fleets had backfired, with the North American operations losing $US95 million in the first quarter.