Ousted Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn’s close ally Jose Munoz has been hired by Hyundai Motor Co as its global chief operating officer and head of American operations.

Munoz was a high profile official at Nissan and tipped as the potential successor to Ghosn. In Hyundai, Munoz will succeed William Lee who was heading the American operations.

According to reports, Munoz will assume charge on May 1 and report to Hyundai top leadership in Seoul. He will be based in Fountain Valley, California.

Hyundai's hiring of Munoz comes at a critical juncture. Munoz has been associated with the auto industry for almost three decades.

“Munoz’s focus will be to deliver profitable growth and improve the overall performance of Hyundai Motor,” said the statement of Hyundai issued in the United States.

Hiring at a crucial time

The South Korean automaker’s heir-apparent Euisun Chung is trying to consolidate under his aging father who is the chairman.

“José Muñoz has an impressive track record and is proven to be a visionary and motivational leader who is adept at all aspects of our business,” said Wonhee Lee, President of Hyundai Motor Company.

At Nissan, Munoz was handling planning and strategies for priority markets including China.

Ghosn will face trial and is housed at a Tokyo jail. Munoz was mentioned as a “person of interest” in one of the internal investigations by Nissan.

Munoz quit Nissan in January. At the time of quitting, Munoz was heading Nissan’s China operations as chief performance officer.

Hyundai’s mandate

At Hyundai, Munoz will oversee the entire American operations. The main task will be revamping the company's operations in the Americas and reviving sagging sales and earnings.

Hyundai's operating profit has been down in the past six years due to plunging sales in China and the United States, the top two auto markets. In the U.S., it also faces a regulatory probe over vehicle recalls for defective engines.

In his reaction, Muñoz said, he was excited to join Hyundai Motor at a vital time and hoped he can contribute from his background in profitable growth, supply chain management, and dealer management.

GettyImages-Hyundai Logo
Hyundai’s logo is displayed at the 85th Geneva Motor Show on March 3, 2015, Geneva, Switzerland. Hyundai has hired Jose Munoz as chief operating officer and president of American operations. He was a close ally of ousted Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Muñoz hails from Spain and a holds Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Madrid and MBA from Madrid’s Instituto de Empresa (IE) Business School

The Ghosn crisis had triggered an exodus of senior talent from Nissan and the ramifications are felt worldwide on automakers in the matter of top executive appointments.