David Badurina Brings Legal to the Forefront of Innovation

From overhauling processes to an entirely new business model, David Badurina made innovation the name of the game at Hyundai Canada

David Badurina talks a lot about innovation at Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. The auto manufacturer has been outperforming the Canadian market, continuing to introduce all-new vehicles when it already offered the most variety and choice in its history.

Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury division, launched in Canada in 2016 as its own standalone brand. Working on behalf of both brands, Badurina has helped usher in new efficiencies, processes and, most importantly, a new philosophy that is disrupting the very nature of how auto manufacturers operate and compete in an evolving market where the goal is to better connect with customers and enhance dealer performance, all the while addressing regulators’ requirements and concerns.

David Badurina Hyundai Canada
Photo: Jennifer Songvilay/Hyundai Auto Canada Corp.

A New View

Badurina assumed general counsel duties in 2016, but the lawyer had done more than his due diligence. Having served both as corporate counsel and senior corporate counsel since 2011, the new GC had an intimate knowledge of how the company operated.

“I supported virtually every business unit of the company at some point in time,” Badurina says. “I was able to get an in-depth understanding of not just the operations of each unit, but the inner workings of the teams, their visions, and their goals.”

That broad exposure allowed the lawyer to help the business formulate strategies while keeping bigger considerations and issues in mind to ensure the ball was always rolling toward the objectives of the company.

It also helped the GC hit the ground running. Badurina was charged with finding opportunities to, essentially, do more with less. Where there had been two lawyers doing his job, there was now one, not to mention a new compliance group reporting up to the legal team and an entirely new luxury brand to consider.

David Badurina Hyundai
David Badurina, General Counsel, Hyundai Auto CanadaPhoto: Jennifer Songvilay/Hyundai Auto Canada Corp.

“I think it’s relevant for any new GCs dealing with this challenge to recognize not only what already works well, but to identify inefficiencies, challenge assumptions of how the department previously operated and reassess how it interacts with the various business units,” Badurina explains.

A fresh perspective can help determine if changes need to be made. In Badurina’s case, there were multiple areas that could be effectively addressed.

“While some inefficiencies were modified or eliminated, we also looked at opportunities to introduce new initiatives or processes that would help the department be more streamlined and efficient,” he says.

Hyundai and Genesis have grown, and Badurina and his lean legal team are ready for the challenges that come.

A New Model for a New Brand

The rollout for the luxury Genesis brand needed to be different on every front. Toyota has Lexus. Nissan has Infiniti. What would establish Hyundai’s new player as the one to beat?

“We decided from the outset that we needed to establish an innovative business model that had never been seen in Canada and, in fact, the world,” Badurina says.

The Genesis model is built on the idea of offering one price for its vehicles and leveraging online shopping and functionality to create an easier and more pleasant buying experience. Instead of the traditional manufacturer-to-dealer model, dealers are contracted as agents through Genesis.

The company is essentially selling directly to its consumers while dealerships can avoid the headaches of carrying inventory on their lots at all times. It’s a model so new that the legal team had to go to unprecedented lengths to assure regulators that no matter the potential issue, the novel business model addresses all of the relevant regulatory requirements and customer protection issues that concern such regulators.

“No one has sold cars this way,” Badurina says. “It’s just a novel paradigm and took some time to work with regulators to help them understand it.”

“We showed that it’s possible to have creativity originate from legal. And it’s made me think of what other areas we can explore and see where we can add value.”

Along with the business model came pop-up boutique displays in luxury malls. There was the chance to drive Genesis G70 down a runway at Toronto Pearson Airport, the second-busiest airport in North America in international traffic. There is the innovative Genesis At Home service that provides a test drive opportunity at the customer’s home or office.

After purchase, the program will pick up the vehicle for maintenance and leave a courtesy vehicle in the meantime. Legal has had a hand in each and every one of these nontraditional approaches to marketing, selling and serving its customers. It’s an accomplishment that has made Badurina very proud of his legal team.

“I think it’s helped set the tone for how the legal department will run under my leadership. It really showed this to the other executives and global Hyundai partners who were wondering what on earth we thought we were doing up in Canada,” he says with a laugh. “We showed that it’s possible to have creativity originate from legal. And it’s made me think of what other areas we can explore and see where we can add value.”

David Badurina is a consummate professional who excels at communicating and managing Hyundai’s business needs. The launch of the Genesis brand stands out as a complex collaborative project where David’s leadership made a significant difference. David clearly enjoys the multi-faceted challenges he faces daily as Hyundai’s General Counsel. A key strength is his ability to optimize the expertise of external counsel to achieve business results. Whether working with a junior associate or partner, David welcomes perspective and stays focused on the task at hand. Theall Group LLP values our long-standing partnership with David and Hyundai Auto Canada Corp.