John Krafcik, president and chief executive of Hyundai Motor America in Costa Mesa, will step down at the end of his contract Dec. 31, making way for successor David Zuchowski to take over both posts effective Jan. 1.

Zuchowski joined Hyundai Motor America in February 2007 and currently serves as executive vice president of sales.

"We sincerely thank John for his visionary leadership and relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction, which has driven Hyundai's record growth over the past five years," said Im Tak Uk, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the company's parent, Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea.

Hyundai described Zuchowski as a 33-year veteran of the automotive industry. He previously served with Mazda North America as vice president of sales and field operations.

Zuchowski began his automotive career in 1980 at Ford Motor Co., where he was a regional manager, product marketing manager, national merchandising manager and field operations manager for the Ford and Lincoln Mercury division.

"I am both humbled and excited to lead Hyundai Motor America into the next chapter by continuing to build on John's great legacy," Zuchowski said in a statement.

He added that he intended to focus on "what matters most — building the highest quality, safest and most diverse fleet of models that customers love."

The automaker had a rough start to the year, when its factories reached their maximum capacity to build cars. It ended up costing the company sales.

Hyundai's U.S. sales were up only 1.9% for the first half of the year, less than a quarter of the overall automobile market's 8.4% growth rate.

The Environmental Protection Agency also determined last year that Hyundai and Kia overstated gas mileage claims on window stickers of 900,000 vehicles in the last three years.

Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America, the U.S. sales arms of the sibling South Korean automakers, recently said they have reached a $400-million settlement in class-action litigation over the inflated fuel-economy claims for their vehicles.

Hyundai will offer the owners of the models with the overstated ratings a lump-sum payment that will average $353. The payment varies depending on whether the vehicle was bought or leased. Kia's average payment will be $667.

The settlement covers about 600,000 Hyundai vehicles and about 300,000 from Kia.

A federal court in Los Angeles is expected to review the proposed settlement in early 2014. Later, owners of the affected vehicles will be sent notices informing them of the payments and their options.

ron.white@latimes.com

Twitter: @RonDWhite