As the North American R&D headquarters, HATCI has a huge responsibility of conveying the voice of the North American customer to our global research & development headquarters in Korea. This voice, much like the production of a vehicle, is a collaborative effort whose assembly takes place in several processes governed by talented, experienced and passionate professionals known as HATCI Team Leads. Without the foresight and support of our leadership, and the exceptional people who compose the HATCI team, we would not be able to accurately represent our customers.
President – Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.
William “Andy” Freels, is the President of Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI) – Hyundai Motor Group’s (HMG) North American research & development headquarters. Freels has led various teams within the organization. Now, as President, he is responsible for leading Engineering groups to develop global platforms to meet North and South American market and customer requirements.
Freels began his career at General Motors (GM) in 1989 focused on customer-based component reliability development for lab and road testing. Over the span of his 16 years with GM, Freels held several roles including program manager for customer measurement programs, Staff Engineer at the Desert Proving Grounds and global road test development in China, Mexico, Brazil and Europe.
Freels joined HATCI in 2005 as Durability Manager of the newly opened California Proving Ground. In 2010 he earned a promotion to Vehicle Evaluation Team Lead. In this capacity, Freels was responsible for durability evaluation as well as vehicle dynamics and thermal systems development at the California Proving Grounds and Irvine Technical Center. In 2014, he was promoted to Director of the Vehicle Evaluation Group including Vehicle Evaluation in California as well as Safety Integration and Electronic Systems Development Teams in Michigan.
Beginning January 2016, Freels assumes his new role as President of HATCI. As the first American President to head the company’s thirtieth year in North America, Freels will lead HATCI’s increasing role and responsibility for vehicle development in the Americas. Building on the vision of a highly respected R&D facility for Hyundai Motor Group, Freels will continue to leverage the creativity and expertise of HATCI employees to apply innovative technology that customers want and vehicle performance and quality that exceed expectations.
Freels’ holds two bachelor’s degrees – a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Texas Tech University, and a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas – and Master’s in Engineering Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Freels is also a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Through these industry organizations and HATCI, Freels volunteers with several philanthropic initiatives including Habitat for Humanity, community youth groups, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs in his community.
Prior to his promotion to President, Freels as well as his wife and two adult children resided in California. Freels and his wife have since relocated to the Ann Arbor area in preparation for the transition into his new role. In his free time, he enjoys mountain and dirt biking, hiking and running.
Advisory Director, Certification and Compliance – Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.
Bob Babcock, Director of Certification and Compliance, oversees the management of all United States emission certification efforts as well as emissions and safety compliance for both Hyundai Motor Company and KIA Motors Corporation.
Upon graduating with honors from Eastern Michigan University with his Bachelors of Science in Physics, Babcock began his career with the United States Environmental Protection Agency focused on heavy duty diesel chassis dynamometer test development and passenger vehicle in-use testing program development. After his work at EPA, Babcock spent ten years in the Toyota Technical Center’s Regulations Department where he served as a Staff Engineer and Analyst.
As a highly accomplished automotive management professional with nearly forty years of experience in the regulatory, certification, testing, and compliance areas, Babcock has managed development of emissions standards, testing processes, in-use programs and compliance testing. He has represented multiple industry interests in written, formal, regulatory comments; industry technical committees; conferences; public hearings; and has also formally testified at official hearings on many occasions.
Babcock currently resides in Ypsilanti Township with his wife, and three children. He has served as a Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office for over 11 years. Additionally, for nearly 20 years, Babcock has also been a volunteer with the Washtenaw County Emergency Management Office, where he serves as a volunteer Skywarn weather spotter and performs other responsibilities to serve his community.
Director, Regulatory Affairs – Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.
Deborah Bakker, Director of Regulatory Affairs, is responsible for U.S. safety and emissions regulatory affairs at Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI) .
Bakker started her career on an emissions certification team at the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to joining HATCI, she worked with Mitsubishi Motors America overseeing the management of safety and environmental product regulatory areas. Before accepting a promotion in 2012 to her current role, Bakker worked as Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs at HATCI.
Director, North American Electronic Systems Development – Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.
John Robb, Director of Electronics Systems Development, is responsible for NA product development, integration validation, and new technology research for Hyundai and Kia vehicles. He leads the Engineering development of the North American user experience (UX), multimedia and navigation systems, telematics solutions – Hyundai BlueLink and Kia UVO.
Robb earned his MBA from the University of Michigan, Dearborn and a BSEE from Lawrence Technological University. He began his career at the US Army Tank Automotive Command (TACOM) in Warren, Michigan, where he worked for 9 years. There he developed 2 generations of telematics systems for the M1A2 Abrams Tank along with deployment of a full autonomous navigation system with associated display systems and radio communication architecture. Robb later transitioned into the automotive industry working for OnStar in 1999, where he was responsible for the sourcing and development of the low cost Generation 3 digital cellular telematics solution.
Just before taking his talents to HATCI, Robb served as a Daimler Chrysler employee for more than 9 years. There, he led a team of Engineers and Developers that launched approximately 42 domestic and global products for multimedia and telematics. Product firsts under his leadership include factory installed Sirius satellite radio and the OEM hands free Bluetooth and voice recognition component (Uconnect).
During his career, Robb has been granted two patents in the area of Multimedia and Telematics.
Currently, Robb resides in the Oxford, MI area with his wife and their two boys, where he is heavily involved in youth sports. For four years, he has served as the President of Oxford’s youth football program. Robb has held a membership with Oxford’s Baseball Association for 11 years, and he has coached 14 baseball teams at a variety of skill levels. Robb’s additional hobbies include Golf, Bowling, Fishing, and Home Improvements.
Director, Vehicle Test & Development Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.
Chahe Apelian, Vehicle Test and Development Director, is responsible for the Vehicle Evaluation Team including vehicle dynamics, NVH, thermal systems and durability development as well as total vehicle evaluation at Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.’s (HATCI) California Proving Ground and Irvine Technical Center.
Apelian joined HATCI in 2002 as the NVH Group Manager. In 2010, his responsibilities increased as Apelian accepted a promotion to Senior Manager of the NVH Group. In 2012, he accepted a promotion to Senior Manager in charge of Vehicle Dynamics and NVH. In 2019, he earned another promotion to his current position in which he serves as the Vehicle Evaluation department lead.
Prior to joining HATCI, Apelian worked as an NVH Manager at Toyota Technical Center where he was responsible for the development of the NVH performance of U.S. produced Toyota and Lexus vehicles.
Apelian graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. He also holds a Master of Science degree from University of Southern California in Aerospace/Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in controls. He currently resides in Irvine area where he enjoys hiking and tutoring his 2 sons in math.
Director, Product Planning Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.
Chadd Price, Director and Head of the Product Planning Department at Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI), is responsible for Product Planning activities for all Hyundai-Kia-Genesis cars, light trucks, and commercial vehicles for North America; local Program Management activities; cross vehicle planning of feature, innovation, technology, and intellectual property; and advanced vehicle strategy and planning. Price’s team also supports market strategy objectives for South America.
Price has dedicated over 13 years of service to HATCI in various roles. Prior to his current position, Price served as the Manager of the Luxury Vehicle and Technology/Innovation group and was responsible for Luxury Product Planning activities for the first Genesis vehicles as well as the Innovation process. Before joining HATCI, Price also enjoyed a 10 year diverse career with Chrysler LLC, where he fulfilled roles in various groups including Quality, Manufacturing, Powertrain, Launch Management, Vehicle Development, Sales and Marketing, Brand Management, and Product Planning.
Born in Columbus, OH, Price graduated Summa Cum Laude, with Honors, and in the top two percent of his class from The Ohio State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He also holds a Master of Science degree from University of Michigan (aka, that school up north) in Automotive Engineering, and he has recently completed a two-year executive management development program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, he has numerous automotive patents granted or pending.