HR Problems in Hyundai Motor Co.

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB058
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 1960-2004
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Hyundai Motor Co.
Industry : Auto and Ancillaries
Countries : India

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Labour Problems in the Late 1990s

The slump in the South Korean economy in late 1990s was bound to have an effect on Hyundai also. The automobile segment was among the first to be hit by the downslide in the economy. The domestic automobile sector had negative growth of almost 55% in 1998 compared to the previous year.

Hyundai was responsible for almost 50% of total automobile production in South Korea and was therefore badly hit. The domestic sales of the company fell by 55% in the year 1998 and its exports crashed by 74 percent to only 15,056 units . Hyundai recorded a 200 billion won loss in 1998.

Human Resource and Organization Behavior | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Human Resource and Organization Behavior, Case Studies

According to company officials, Hyundai's six assembly plants with a yearly production capacity of 1.65 million vehicles, were operating at only 40 percent of their capacity. In May, 1998, Hyundai reacted to this grim situation by announcing plans to lay off 27 percent of its 46,000 workforce in South Korea and to cut pay bonuses and benefits in a bid to save 230 billion won.

Unfortunately for the management of the company, Hyundai had one of the most powerful and militant unions. The decision of the company to lay off workers sparked off agitations not only in Hyundai but in other companies too. The unions were particularly offended at the government's approval of Hyundai's decision.

In a demonstration in Ulsan, where Hyundai has its biggest automobile plant, 32,000 employees participated in rallies. All across South Korea almost 1,20,000 employees from about 125 companies participated in demonstrations against Hyundai and the government's decision. The government had to deploy nearly 20,000 riot police to control the demonstrators...

Labour Problems in the Early 2000s

On September 1, 2000, Hyundai officially cut ties with the Hyundai Group and had relocated its head office to Yangjae-dong, Seoul, Korea - a move that was seen as symbolic of its rebirth as an independent automotive business group . In December 2001, Hyundai forecasted its highest profits ever - $900 million for the year.

In the same year, it posted 23.4 percent growth in unit sales and a 74.5 percent improvement in net income. Most importantly, Hyundai vehicles were being accepted as a technologically advanced, stylish and reliable in overseas markets like the US and Europe. In the United States, the world's largest auto market, Hyundai recorded a 42 percent sales increase in 2001.

This was an era of growth, reorganization and new market exploration. But the success story was marred by another strike threat in Hyundai.

Workers at the Ulsan plant went on a two-day strike in December 2001, demanding higher wages and higher bonuses. They also demanded a 30% share in the profits that year as a performance bonus.

The management clarified, that though the company had done well that year, it could not afford performance bonuses to the tune of 30% of profit. The reasons given were: firstly, the increased influx of imported cars into South Korea was bound to hurt Hyundai's market share and margins in South Korea.

Secondly, General Motors' purchase of Daewoo was a threat that could not be ignored or taken lightly, and the company had to gear itself up to be able to compete with General Motors, and lastly, the most important reason stated was that due to the appreciation of the Korean won, Hyundai cars were becoming less competitive in international markets and profitability consequently would be hurt...


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