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SsangYong launches new model assault in UK

By raccars Published

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SsangYong is emerging from the chrysalis of its budget status with a major new model offensive.

SsangYong emerged from the financial wreckage of the giant Korean conglomerate of the same name. The late Nineties and the Noughties were a period of substantial turmoil within the company, which underwent various changes in ownership and teetered constantly on the brink of financial disaster. Since 2011 and after being put into receivership, the company is now majority owned by the Indian Mahindra conglomerate.

Despite being South Korea's fourth largest car maker, as with other Korean companies such as Hyundai and Kia, SsangYong has always been relegated to budget car status in the UK and Europe. And just like them, it is now pushing for mainstream recognition.

Tivoli leads UK growth

Over the next five years SsangYong is set to launch several new models in the UK. After acquiring Italian design firm Pininfarina last year, the company intends to focus on design while also developing alternative powertrains. Recent sales growth has given SsangYong the confidence and extra resources to organise an overhaul of its entire model line-up, and the success of the Tivoli SUV in the UK has inspired Mahindra to commit itself to growth here.

The Tivoli was SsangYong's first new release after the Mahindra takeover and joined the Korando, the Actyon, the Rexton W and Kyron SUVs plus the Actyon Sports pick up, the Rodius van and the Chairman W luxury saloon to complete its current line-up.

An XLV version of the Tivoli will reach the market later in 2016, a longer version of the standard model, and a convertible Tivoli is under consideration if SsangYong can make a convincing commercial case. The success of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Convertible has opened the possibility of yet another new and potentially very profitable market segment in the form of the convertible SUV.

However, SsangYong is keenly aware that it faces huge competition in the sector and worries that indulging in something which could be seen as gimmicky could dilute some of the good work done by the standard Tivoli to improve its brand image. Quite a lot of engineering would be required to effect the transformation and SsangYong is keen to continue its reputation for providing value for money. As such, it would be reasonable to assume a starting price of about £16,000. That would be very much a value for money prospect in a segment likely to be dominated by the premium brands.

At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year SsangYong showed off the SIV-2 concept, a medium sized, hybrid Nissan Qashqai rival, while the larger Rexton SUV and Turismo people carrier are due to be replaced. At the moment SUVs make up SsangYong's core product range and there's no reason to expect that to change.

Through its parent company Mahindra, SsangYong also has access to new engines such as a three cylinder turbo petrol unit currently under development, which could be added to the Tivoli range in 2017. With Mahindra in the process of launching itself as an electric car maker in the UK with the e20 city car and further models on the way, SsangYong is also investigating the possibility of electric powertrains.

The Pininfarina influence

SsangYong's acquisition of Pininfarina should help the company to rise above previous design criticisms which have been an obstacle to major UK success. Mahindra claims to be keen to preserve the Italian design house's integrity so it's not yet clear how Pininfarina's influence will be felt. There is no suggestion that SsangYong vehicles will be wearing Pininfarina badges but a raised sensibility to design issues is sure to permeate.

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