Ssangyong CEO: ‘3,000 sales in 2012’
SsangYong is the South Korean brand with more lives than a cat having survived riots and near bankruptcy.
Now under new ownership and with a new distributor, its UK operation has landed on its paws, sales can fully recommence and the Korando midsized crossover range is ready for sale.
SsangYong’s initial downfall was triggered by the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s and the company’s owners in that time have been SsangYong, Daewoo, China’s SAIC and now India’s Mahindra & Mahindra which rescued it from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.
For the UK market there is now a new distributor, the Gibraltar based Bassadone Automotive Group. Like its vehicles, the SsangYong management team and dealers are durable and, despite the brand’s recent uncertain future, remain under the control of Chief Executive Officer Paul Williams who leads the new SsangYong Motors UK distributor operation.
Williams is confident the invigorated brand can prosper where before it struggled, thanks to the experience Bassadone brings to the party and the financial security offered by Mahindra.
“Bassadone has been involved since the summer and the group has a lot of experience in vehicle distribution in Europe and Africa with a number of brands. For the first time we have some secure financial backing and I can plan with confidence for the future."
That future starts with the Korando crossover SUV – a Ssangyong which has been influenced heavily by its European designer. While it will retain typical traits from the brand including affordability and robustness, it is also a different approach as it has been built with European markets in mind.
The new approach has bred confidence in Ssangyong and the manufacturer has ramped up its sales targets as it looks to match its best ever sales year in 2006, when 3,000 units were sold.
“By the end of November our UK sales for the month following the launch of the new Korando will be around 250 vehicles and our total sales for this year will be around 350 units," said Williams.
“Next year I expect us to sell between 2,500 and 3,000 new cars in the UK. The new Korando will sell between 1,500 and 2,000 units, the Rexton and the Rodius around 500 units each."
'£3,000 cheaper than rivals'
Despite its improvements in style, drive and performance, Ssangyong is under no illusions that the best way of bringing new buyers into the brand is by undercutting the price of its rivals.
“90 per cent of our customers will be retail buyers and they are generally people looking for added value or value for money high specification models. The new Korando for instance is around £3,000 cheaper than the crossover sector competition."
Williams said the best selling new Korando model will be the 2.0-litre EX auto 4WD priced at £22,995 and “is pitched to sell against the Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi ASX and Nissan Qashqai ranges."
“The new Giugiaro styled Korando 2.0-litre turbodiesel crossover range with two and four wheel drive versions is arriving in our UK showrooms now and prices start from £16,995," plugged Williams.
Ssangyong will also look to improve its customer services through transparent, clear warranty deals.
“Korando models carry a five year limitless warranty. By using the term limitless mileage for a five year period, we are getting away from the usual term of unlimited, where it is never clear what is covered."
“People don’t appear to believe other terms such as Free and Lifetime warranties and anything more than five years is not needed. Our limitless offer even covers our accessories so the entire vehicle, apart from the normal wear and tear items such as tyres, is covered."
The Korando launch marks the start of a busy period for the South Korean manufacturer, probably its busiest ever in the UK.
The crossover bolsters the brand’s range in the UK but it’s not the only new addition to the range with the Rexton SUV and Rodius MPV also receiving new, Euro 5 diesel engines in 2012.
“Next spring we will be introducing a 2.0-litre diesel 700kg payload pick-up and that will be followed by a B-segment supermini sized crossover, Nissan Juke size, with a 1.6-litre diesel and a small petrol engine with a capacity yet to be decided will join the range in 2013."
To cope with its more varied product line-up, Ssangyong is bolstering its UK dealership network, with a particular focus on Wales.
“Currently we have 40 UK dealers but we will have 50 in place by the end of this year. We have recently appointed dealers in Shrewsbury, Breaston Derbyshire and Peterborough.
“Wales will be a strong region for us with a dealer in Penarth Road Cardiff already in business, one in Newport in operation, strong prospects in Swansea and North Wales and a dealer in Mid Wales. We also have dealers in Scotland with more to come."
Korando - Designed for Europe in Europe by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design, the new SsangYong Korando offers a contemporary look and a design which is a combination of a 4x4/SUV and a five door family hatchback.
All Korando models are powered by a Euro 5, new 2.0-litre, 175bhp turbodiesel engine developed by SsangYong and unlike other engines in the range it is not sourced from Mercedes-Benz. Fuel economy is 47.1mpg with 157g/km CO2 emissions in front wheel drive form. The most popular 4x4 version with a six speed automatic transmission officially returns 37.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 199g/km. The vehicle has a two tonne towing capacity.
There are five variants from launch, with the option of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions and a choice of S, ES 2WD and EX 4WD trim and equipment levels.
Rexton - The seven-seat Rexton off roader is available as the 270 S with manual or automatic transmission, and 270 EX with automatic transmission as standard. On the road prices start from £19,995.
A commercial variant, the Rexton CS is also available with two seats, a 2.2 cubic metre load area and either manual of automatic transmission. Prices start from £16,399 (excluding VAT and on the road charges).
Rodius - The seven-seat Rodius MPV is available as the 270 S manual, the 270 ES with a choice of either manual or automatic transmission, and the top specification 270 EX with all wheel drive and automatic transmission. All models have seven seats as standard and a generous luggage area, and on the road prices start from just £14,995.